Fresh raids by CBI in UP’s multi-billion NRHM scam

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Lucknow: Close on the heels of Friday’s simultaneous raids at 30 different locations across Uttar Pradesh in connection with the multi-billion-rupee rural health scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) swooped on 27 places in a dozen towns of the state as well as neighbouring Bihar Saturday.

Two officials of the state family welfare department, including a district chief medical officer, were understood to have been taken into custody for “questioning”. Formal arrests were likely to follow over the next 48 hours, according to a CBI source.

“Searches are on across 12 districts including Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Meerut, Jhansi, Shravasti, Gorakhpur and Balrampur at the residences of chief medical officers of the health and family welfare department who were entrusted with implementation of the National Rural Health Mission in the state,” a senior CBI official told IANS.

“One team was sent as far as Patna to search the residence of a senior UP health official there,” he added. He, however, declined to give details of the recoveries made during the raids.

CBI had earlier confirmed that the NRHM directorate in Uttar Pradesh had received thousand of crores of rupees as funds between 2005-2011 for running schemes like Mission Flexipool, Immunisation, Reproductive Child Health, and National Blindness Control Programme. Funds were also earmarked for improvement of health infrastructure through upgradation of hospitals, community health centres and primary health centres.

The funds under the scheme were forwarded to the respective health societies of all the districts of the state to be utilized at the level of district CMOs.

According to a CBI source, “investigations so far have revealed that drugs and medical equipment purchased under the programme were not only sub-standard but were also heavily over-priced, which made it obvious that a whole lot of money went into kickbacks.”

Allegations of gross irregularities and manipulation in award of contracts by CMOs to various private parties were also being probed by CBI sleuths, who have also discovered how some persons acted as middle-men between contractors and influential bureaucrats and ministers to supply medicines and equipment under the programme.

Some of these touts were also known for their proximity to former ministers Anant Kumar Misra and Babu Singh Kushwaha, who successively held the portfolio of family welfare in the state.

A few searches carried out Saturday were stated to be at the homes of health officials close to both these ministers.