Madhya Pradesh Chief Electoral Office or Chai ki dukan?

Sravani Sarkar @dbpostnews

Bhopal: Can a tea and snack shop be run on the premises of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of MP? It would seem so, if some Right to Information documents accessed from the CEO office are to be believed.

The documents show that payments for refreshments served at meetings related to presidential election of July 2017 were made to a shop with an address similar to that of the CEO office.

The address of the office of CEO is ‘Madhya Pradesh Nirvachan Sadan, 17, Arera Hills, Bhopal’. And one of the refreshment bills (accessed through RTI), for which payment was made by the office, has an address stamp of ‘Shop no 17, Arera Hills, Bhopal.’

DB Post investigation indicated serious foul play. No ‘Shop number 17’ serving refreshments could be traced on Arera Hills – a locality primarily housing government offices and institutions.

ONLY A SANCHI PARLOUR

A Sanchi Milk Parlour exists at a similar address, ’17, Jail Road, Arera Hills’, but it does not serve refreshments or tea. The shop owner stated only ‘Sanchi’ ( a brand of milk products marketed by MP Madhya Pradesh State Cooperative Dairy Federation Ltd) products and some packaged snacks like biscuits and wafers were sold at the shop.

WRONG CONNECTION

A phone number stamped along with the shop address turned out to be that of a public sector unit (PSU) employee from Dudhichua in Singrauli district. The person who answered DB Post’s call claimed that he had the phone number for the past three years and he had never stayed in Bhopal.

IRREGULAR PAYMENT

The RTI documents also indicate that the payment was made to the bank account of an employee of CEO office, who is supposed to have made cash payment to the ‘refreshment shop owner’.

CORRUPTION ALLEGED

RTI activist Ajay Dubey, who accessed the documents, alleged that the similar address was not a mere coincidence and that the bill was forged. Similar bills have been used to siphon off sizeable funds at the CEO office, he alleged.

Though the RTI documents show payments worth Rs33,110 for serving of refreshment at three meetings (for president of India election) in July 2017, Dubey has alleged that the corruption might be of a higher order.

COMPLAINT TO BE LODGED

Dubey said, “All these facts indicatef forgery and corruption. We will lodge complaints with the Election Commission of India and the Lokayukta. How can we be assured of free and fair conduct of elections by the office when such corruption prevails there?”

‘WILL GET IT CHECKED’

When contacted with the details, the chief electoral officer of MP, Saleena Singh said she would get the matter checked if she got specific details. DB Post has mailed the documents to her.