The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Jharkhand mines and industries secretary Pooja Singhal on Wednesday evening after questioning the 2000-batch IAS officer for more than 20 hours following allegations that Rs 18 crore of MGNREGA funds were embezzled between 2006 and 2010 in Khunti district when she was deputy commissioner.
This is the first arrest of a serving IAS officer in the state. The arrest assumes significance as the departments she headed are on Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren’s watch and he himself is caught in an office-of-profit storm following an Election Commission notice related to a mining lease allotted to him in July last year.
The ED registered a case in 2012 linked to the alleged embezzlement after the role of IAS officer Pooja Singhal came under the scanner when one of the key accused, junior engineer Ram Govind Sinha, revealed during questioning that he had bribed the DC’s office with cuts from the pilfered funds. The alleged embezzlement took place between 2006 and 2010 in Khunti district when Singhal was deputy commissioner.
The ED arrested Pooja Singhal on Wednesday under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in alleged embezzlement of Rs 18 crore of MGNREGA funds and a special court remanded her in the agency’s custody for five days, beginning Thursday. After her arrest, CM Soren said the state government would take appropriate action against the bureaucrat.
Responding to criticism from the opposition BJP, Soren said former CM Raghubar Das should answer why his government cleared Singhal in the MGNREGA scam. “BJP’s 20 years of rule in Jharkhand should be probed because they encouraged the bureaucrat for all the wrongdoings, gave her a clean chit,” Soren said.
BJP state president Deepak Prakash asked the CM to suspend the IAS officer. “We expected the CM, who was calling the ED action ‘geedar bhabhki’ (false threat), should now suspend the corrupt, instead of protecting her,” Prakash said.