Deaths most foul

The death of yet another government official connected with the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in Uttar Pradesh has made the affairs of the scam-hit project murkier.

The alleged suicide of the engineer, who was  a manager with a state government company, is the fourth in the series of deaths of persons involved in the programme. While two senior doctors of the state’s family welfare department, whose role in the scam was being investigated, were shot dead in the last six months, another person, who was arrested, was found dead in jail in still unexplained circumstances. The murders and the mysterious deaths raise more questions about the scandal in which high-profile state politicians, senior government officials, contractors and the staff of agencies which implemented the  scheme are involved.

The CBI, which is investigating the scandal, had interrogated the engineer in connection with alleged irregularities in the implementation of the health mission. These irregularities had pointed to mis-spending and misappropriation of thousands of crores of rupees. The NRHM scam in UP is even compared with the Commonwealth Games scandal in scope. Many powerful people, including former state minister Babu Singh Kushwaha, who recently joined the BJP, are considered to be involved in it. The CBI should get to the truth behind the murders also as part of its investigation of the scandal. There is reason to suspect that they are attempts to destroy evidence by eliminating people who have information which might incriminate powerful people and to intimidate others. The CBI should protect officials and others who are needed for the investigation and who may be vulnerable like those who have been killed or died in mysterious circumstances. Politics,  government and the larger public life in UP have been linked with crime. Crime has also accompanied corruption. The NRHM scandal has elements of these and so it is necessary to get to the root of it, expose all those who are involved and bring to book the guilty, including those who are trying to subvert the investigation.

The misappropriation of money is considered to have taken place over a period of five years from 2005. The investigation into the scandal is being carried out by the CBI on the direction of the Allahabad high court. The court will have to ensure that the investigation is effective and no one guilty of crime or corruption manages to escape the arms of the law.

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