NEW DELHI: Allegations of a powerful clique in railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s office centering on his private secretary Rahul Bhandari of several years have led the CBI to the official with the agency speaking to Bhandari on Wednesday.
The 1997-batch Punjab cadre IAS officer has been with Bansal for a while, having served him earlier in the water resources and parliamentary affairs ministries.
Soon after Bansal took charge of railway ministry last October, Bhandari emerged as the key interface between Railway Board and the minister’s office.
Sources said that the minister placed complete trust in him. “He was eye and ears of the minister,” an official said.
A source said Bhandari figured out in no time how the railway ministry functioned and files did not move without his vetting them.
Such was keenness to micro manage the ministry’s affairs that he even tried to control release of emergency quota (EQ) seats, which were under the jurisdiction of officials in the Railway Board.
According to CBI, Bhandari was in regular touch with Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla, arrested for receiving Rs 90 lakh as part payment for a bribe to appoint a senior railway official as a member of the Railway Board.
Board officials recall having seen Singla frequently in Rail Bhawan corridors and spending time with Bhandari.
That money changes hands in promotions and appointment has been alleged for long. Railway employees and officers’ unions’ members say, the recent bribery allegation is not surprising and rules are often bend to suit a particular candidate.
A member of the Federation of Railway Officers’ Association alleged, “There should be no doubt about the fact that there are certain loopholes in the process of promotion at the apex level, which facilitate scope for favoritism on face-value or other considerations,” AIRF said in a letter to cabinet secretary.
The senior posts of General Manager are kept vacant for months, while in cases of vacancies of members in the Railway Board and proposals to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) are sent at the eleventh hour.