Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
As an IAS officer of the 2013 batch, 35-year-old Jitendra Gupta is a relatively new civil servant – and he faced the ugly side of the system very early in his career.
A civil servant eager to bring positive changes in society, Dr Gupta dared to take on the infamous and powerful Entry Mafia of Bihar. For his efforts, the Mafia filed a false corruption case against him, had his house unlawfully raided, and had him imprisoned for a month – all for raising his voice against injustice.
The Patna High Court, the Supreme Court, and the IAS Officers Association rushed to rescue Dr Gupta and get him bailed. Presently, the frivolous charges against Dr Gupta have been dropped and he is continuing his crusade against the Entry Mafia’s rule.
The Logical Indian recently interviewed Jitendra Gupta. We asked him about his journey, his battle with the Entry Mafia, and his aspirations.
Born in a very small backwards village of Uttar Pradesh, Dr Gupta experienced the failure of the system to deliver rights to the citizens.
Jitendra Gupta joined as Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) of Mohania Sub-Division in Kaimur district of Bihar in December 2015.
The “Entry Mafia” has made strong inroads into the police and political class of many Indian states, particularly in Bihar. This Mafia involves thousands of trucks crossing state lines illegally with forged documents and illegal goods.
The Entry Mafia causes losses of hundreds of crores to the State exchequer every year. As per the report of transport department of Bihar, overloading is an offence and serious public nuisance in Bihar. It causes great loss of revenue to the Government, accidents and loss of human life, damage to property, law and order problems, vehicular pollution, damage to public property like roads and bridges and is a prime reason for corruption at inter-state check posts (Letter No.539 dated 29.01.16 of principal secretary of transport department, Patna for your reference. It can be seen on the official website of transport dept, Patna).
While serving as SDO, it was officially brought to his notice that overloaded vehicles illegally pass through the Integrated Check Post located at the border of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in his sub-division and run through National Highway No-2 (NH-2), which also passed through his Sub-Division.
“It was brought before me that police officials seize these overloaded vehicles and park them over NH-2 which not only hampers the ongoing work of widening and six-laning of NH-2 but also causes accidents and law and order problems. Overloading is an offence under Motor Vehicle Act and these overloaded vehicles cause revenue loss to the Government and accidents lead to loss of innocent lives. I was officially requested by the National Highway Authority of India and formally ordered by my District Magistrate and Transport Department of Government of Bihar to seriously act against overloading. I deputed civil and police officers for regularly checking overloaded vehicles and thereafter properly park them at earmarked places and taking necessary legal action against them. I stopped police to park these overloaded vehicles on NH-2 and from taking illegal money from defaulter trucks and release them without fine. I also stopped employees of transport department from taking illegal money from over height vehicles and stopped those officials who do not have any power in overloading from acting on their own whims and fancies.”
As a result of Gupta’s legal and official action, the ‘Entry Mafia’ involved in overloading were facing heavy economic losses and their black earnings were severely affected. “To get me out of the way, one infamous and notorious Entry Mafia leader, namely Arvind Kumar, in connivance with some truckers, hatched a criminal conspiracy and lodged a false complaint against me in Vigilance Police Station at Patna on 8 July 2016.”
The complaint alleged that Dr Jitendra Gupta seized four trucks on and later demanded a bribe for releasing them.
Consequent to that false and frivolous complaint by the Entry Mafia, the Vigilance Department, without doing any investigations, arrested Jitendra Gupta in the midnight of 12 July 2016.
Dr Gupta told The Logical Indian, “I was jailed for about a month and released on regular bail on 10 August 2016. After my release, I filed a Criminal Writ in the Honourable Patna High Court for quashing of FIR and setting aside all consequent investigations. Since the complaint against me was false and part of criminal conspiracy to take vengeance and harass me, my criminal writ succeeded and the FIR was quashed by the honourable Patna High Court on 28 October.”
In October 2016, the Patna High Court overthrew the FIR filed against Gupta. It was proved in the court of law that the complaint was false. In fact, no incident as alleged in the FIR ever took place.
This order of the Patna High Court was upheld by the Supreme Court on 6 February 2017 and the SC bench too held that Jitendra Gupta was falsely implicated.
“Yes, I felt bad. But not for the act of the Mafia but for the act of the Vigilance Officers who were actually acting on the behest of the Mafia. The Vigilance Investigation Bureau, Patna did not follow any provisions of CrPC or IPC or IEA while dealing with my case. They violated all guidelines the Supreme Court and Police/Home Departments. They even did not bother to find out the locus standi of Arvind Kumar, the writer of the complaint in the entire matter. Everyone in Kaimur district knows that he is a notorious Entry Mafia but surprisingly Vigilance department found him to be the most trustworthy informant. Each and every word written in the complaint was falsified from official records of Government of India and Government of Bihar. The verifier of Vigilance Sh. Santosh Kumar Singh (ASI) relied upon him to the extent that he took him along for verification. It is beyond understanding why the verifier did not verify the presence of alleged trucks and their drivers and mentioned nothing about them in his verification report? He neither met me nor talked to me to confirm any demand of bribe. So on whose behest did he submit that false and incomplete verification report and wrote that the demand of bribe by me has been found to be true?”
The SP-cum-SHO of Vigilance Police Station, Shiv Kumar Jha, satisfied and convinced with this false and incomplete verification report, even concluded that proof of bribe had been found. Thus he proposed a raiding team and asked for the approval of DG Vigilance – who forgot to approve this raiding team. Even without the approval of DG Vigilance, this raiding team proceeded for the raid.
“This shows the haste and malicious intentions of Vigilance Investigation Bureau in this matter,” Dr Gupta says.
“Why,” Dr Gupta says, “did the head of the raiding team arrest me in midnight against the guidelines of Honourable Supreme Court? The raid conducted by Vigilance on 12 July at my premises was highly unlawful. They badly assaulted my staff during the raid. None of the members of the raiding team were bearing any nameplates or ID cards.”
“They took the same Entry Mafia Arvind Kumar along with while they moved out for raid at my premises. He trespassed my house with the use of force. He misbehaved with my wife. He tortured my family. He did not allow me to inform my administrative seniors about the raid and neither did he allow me to consult a lawyer during interrogation which was my legal right under the law of the land. He even stole some old lying records from my confidential office. They used extra legal aid during raid like private vehicle of Mohania DSP. He violated CrPC provisions by making arrest without having any evidence against me.”
According to Jitendra Gupta:
“I have no hesitation to say,” Dr Gupta told The Logical Indian, “that Vigilance was managed by those Entry Mafia and errant transporters to falsely implicate me in this false case and ruin my life and career. Even today that Entry Mafia is roaming scot free and no action has been taken against him.”
“No, never. I had done nothing wrong after all. I had full faith in judiciary too. The IAS Association too helped me a lot. All my friends, relatives and service colleagues were there to help me as they know me.”
Nobody can deny the existence of Entry Mafia or its unholy nexus with transport officials and police. “This is an organised crime which needs systemic solutions. Isolated efforts like mine can only stop it or reduce it for a while. In my case, it backfired in the form of conspiracy. This Mafia is well-connected so we should not underestimate it. Mafia is mafia, but enforcement agencies should not play in their hands. Most unfortunate is that this Entry Mafia uses police/vigilance as a tool to harass officers who come in their way.”
Have you ever crossed an interstate checkpost in a commercial vehicle? The practice of taking more money than prescribed is very common. Everybody pays that extra and get on to his work. If you measure the scale of operation of this illegal collection, it will turn out to be in lakhs every single day at every checkpost. Similarly, more money is taken from over-height commercial vehicles than prescribed. This illegal collection too runs into lakhs per day from a single check post.
Overloading is a much more organised crime.
Just imagine that a transporter who sends his overloaded truck (knowing well that it’s an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act) from one state to another state is confident that his overloaded truck will easily pass through so many checkposts in its way.
How is it possible? The entire transport departments of so many intervening states will not catch hold of that overloaded trucks. Why?
Jitendra Gupta says, “I can tell you that even if one checkpost on these long highways decides to stop overloading, the entire nexus will collapse. But it involves thousands of trucks and millions of rupees per month per check post so this does not stop. In fact those who try to stop are implicated in false cases because this entry mafia has started state enforcement agencies.”
To many Indians, Bihar is a land of lawlessness where things cannot be improved or are extremely difficult to be improved. This is the general stereotype. Jitendra Gupta does not agree with this.
“There are huge problems here,” Dr Gupta says, “but they can be solved. Bihar is a very good state in the sense that one can do a lot here. People are very nice here and they want development and opportunities. Bihar has a population which is beyond its carrying capacity but nobody talks of it. I think if this massive population can be converted into human resource, much of the work is done. People indulge in unlawful activities more when they have no employment. So break that stereotype of Bihar. Please note that Bihar will be engine of growth and development for India in the coming future.”
Civil servants form the permanent executive in Indian democracy. They are needed to implement policies and rule of law. They deliver services, execute welfare schemes in the field, and make policies in Government. Indian democracy needs civil servants for representation of people in government and setting the agenda while civil servants are crucial to execute that agenda.But in my view, a lot of it is not needed as people want governance and not government.
“I joined the Indian Administrative Service to bring systemic reforms and serve society,” Jitendra Gupta says. “This service seriously provides a very large platform and an opportunity to bring positive changes in the lives of millions of poor and needy. Being just Sub-divisional Magistrate, we could do a lot. We removed massive encroachment that eased the life of people especially women and children. We started a mass campaign to promote vaccination of children, a mass campaign against alcohol and drug abuse and successfully planted hundreds of trees with the help of Divisional Forest Officer. My district magistrate always encouraged me for these initiatives. We could also steer through also impediment to restart all development works like construction of Vehicular under-pass on NH-2 and erection of power transmission line. Here, we mean all my staff and officers along with me because in administration, it’s the “we” that works and not “I”.”
“All I can say to these aspiring civil servants is that they are most welcome in the service. The system needs a lot of young, energetic, and innovative officers who could pace with the monumental reforms which the present Governments are trying. Officers are needed to execute these reforms. As far as my case is concerned, these aspirants need not feel demotivated because there has been history of upright officers being targeted for their action against corruption and mafias. Neither my case is first one nor last one so those willing to fight corruption must be ready to face such things. Though such incidents of harassment and victimisation disturb for a while but there are good people within the service and other institutions who come forward to protect you from such vested interests. If you are right, you need not worry.”
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