Meet Kochi's one-man army that blew the lid off rampant corruption in Maradu panchayat
It was trap set by Vigilance, Anti-Corruption Bureau based on a complaint filed on February 19, 2007, against then panchayat officials that blew the lid off the entire construction fraud in Maradu.
KOCHI: Anil Kumar V G of Nettoor would have never thought that his effort to uncover the illegal practices in the then Maradu grama panchayat would end up in the demolition of five highrises for violating CRZ norms years later.
It was a trap set by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau based on his complaint filed on February 19, 2007, against then panchayat officials that blew the lid off the entire construction fraud in Maradu. Then Maradu panchayat secretary Mohammed Ashraf was arrested for accepting bribe from Kumar and 31 other persons for sanctioning illegal building permits.
The vigilance team seized files from Ashraf’s room, including illegal permits issued to four of the ill-fated highrises. The vigilance officials found the permits to four highrises were allocated without mandatory sanction from Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA). The ensuing legal battle led to last year’s Supreme Court verdict.
The entire issue started with the then Maradu panchayat delaying a building permit application submitted by Kumar’s friend Suresh Menon, who is based in Singapore.
“I approached the panchayat for a building permit. Suresh was planning to build a 4,500 sq-ft house at Ambalakadavu back in 2007. Ashraf demanded Rs 5 for each square foot citing the distance from the road to the apartment. It would have come to a huge amount at the time. Since there were no violation on our part, we couldn’t agree to it. He intentionally delayed the file. One day, I found him taking Rs 500 from an elderly woman and he repeated the demand of Rs 12,000 from me,” he said.
On Menon’s instructions, Kumar met vigilance DySP Joseph. “As per their directives, I went to the panchayat office on February 20 with the amount. The currency notes were coated with chemical powders and a microphone was fitted in my pocket to record the conversation. I went into his office with a tahsildar impersonating as my friend’s brother.
Right after giving the bribe, a union worker entered the room and forced the secretary to cover the amount. Then, vigilance officials entered the room and arrested him,” said Kumar.
Kumar was made the first witness in the case. However, the official confessed to the irregularities happening in the panchayat.
He was sentenced in the case and is still entangled in many similar cases. But the corrupt practices still go on in the municipality.