CRPF probes if canteen goods in Chhattisgarh sold in open market

A SUSPECTED case of diversion of canteen goods meant for Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel engaged in battle against Maoists in Chhattisgarh has come to light following a series of applications filed under the RTI Act leading to the Central Information Commissioner asking the force to “provide the factual position”.

It is alleged that goods worth around Rs 3 crore may have been diverted from the CRPF canteens in Chhattisgarh and sold in the open market.

Sources said the Ministry of Home Affairs has taken cognizance of the matter. “The Internal Audit Wing of the MHA conducted an audit in this matter in November and December last year. The report of the audit is still awaited. Once it is with us, appropriate action will be taken,” a CRPF spokesperson told The Sunday Express.

The RTI applications were filed by CRPF Deputy Commandant Prabhat Tripathi.

Sources said first signs of alleged corruption in running of canteens emerged in 2014, when a medical officer posted in 217 Battalion was denied the purchase of an air-conditioner from the battalion’s subsidiary canteen, and a suspected transaction was noticed between 217 Battalion canteen and the master canteen of 201 Cobra Battalion. The master canteen operates as wholesaler, supplying items to subsidiary canteens which sell the same to the personnel.

Tripathi, who was then posted in Chhattisgarh, got on to the trail of the matter. However, he was soon transferred to Lucknow. Following this, he filed a series of RTI applications.

The RTI replies revealed that while the master canteen had released home appliances to the 217 Battalion canteen against a Bill of Rs 1.63 lakh, this was not reflected in the stock register of the 217 Battalion canteen. Moreover, the payment received by the master canteen against the Bill was routed through Kshetriya Gramin Bank where the 217 Battalion did not have an account.

It was also found that for the payment, cash was deposited in the Gramin Bank, a practice not followed in canteen-canteen transactions. As many as 43 such transactions amounting to Rs 2.95 crore were tracked. However, when Tripathi demanded details of these in another RTI application, it was denied.

Sources in CRPF said recently a departmental inquiry has been recommended against the concerned official of the 217 Battalion canteen.

When contacted, Tripathi, who is now posted in Delhi, said, “I have already made a complaint internally as well about this. But the outcome of the probe is not known.” It was after this that Tripathi went into appeal and finally the matter reached the CIC. In an order on February 9, the CIC said, “In the light of the facts of the case and the arguments advanced by both the parties, the Commission is of the view that the instant matter has not been dealt with appropriately…. Therefore, in view of the above findings, the Commission directs Shri M J Vijay, CPIO and DIG, Cobra Sector, CRPF to submit an explanation in writing stating the reasons why penal action should not be initiated u/s 20(1) of the RTI Act, 2005 and also provide the factual position in the matter to the Commission. The above-mentioned direction should be complied with by 15.03.2022.”

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