A view of Patna, Bihar. Officials with the Vigilance Department said no corruption cases had been logged with the office in the past two months. Image Credit: File

Patna: The deadly Covid-19 may have proved disastrous for the world, but it has also brought some positive changes in society. Believe it or not, it has brought corruption cases significantly down in the eastern Indian state of Bihar with bribe-seeking officials reportedly refusing to accept cash out of fear of contracting the deadly virus.

For more than two months now, since the nationwide lockdown was enforced from March 24 to check the spread of coronavirus, no case of corruption has been registered with the state Vigilance Department. This has come as a pleasant surprise for the vigilance officials who, on an average, used to report four to five cases in a month.

Officials with the Vigilance Department said no corruption cases had been logged with the office in the past two months. The last case pertaining to a government official seeking bribe was registered with the department on February 26. Sleuths from the agency had caught village council chief Sanjay Kumar Singh red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs63,000 (Dh3,094) in cash.

Shaken by fear

According to vigilance officials, many of corrupt government employees were perhaps not accepting bribes in cash for fear of picking up the viral infection.
“We are surprised. We have not received any complaint about officials seeking bribes from the people to get work done. May be the bribe-seeking officials have been shaken by the fear that accepting cash from unknown persons could get them Coronavirus infection,” said a senior official with the Bihar Vigilance Department, pleading anonymity.

Another reason, he cited, could be that majority of development work was put on hold due to the lockdown and people mostly remained at home for the past two months. “We have not received any corruption complaint for more than two months. But if we receive any, we will act as per the SOP (standard operating procedures) of the Covid-19,” Sunil Kumar Jha, the additional director general of police, Vigilance Department, told the media on Saturday.

Sustained and intensive campaigns

According to an official report, a total of 1,433 cases related to corruption have been registered by the Vigilance Department in the past ten years, while 1,103 officials were arrested while accepting bribes. Of the total number of officials arrested, 153 have been convicted while 30 have had their property confiscated. The government has now promised sustained and intensive campaigns against corrupt officials.

Corruption remains a matter of serious concern in Bihar despite the state government initiating some drastic measures to control it, including confiscation of property and and turning them into schools or orphanages. So far, the bungalows of at least four top government officials have been converted into schools and orphanages. These officials include Shiv Shankar Verma, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official who served as a secretary in the Minor Irrigation Department; Narayan Mishra, former Indian Police Service (IPA) officer who had served as director general of Police; Raghuvansh Kunvar, inspector in the Motor Vehicles Department; and Girish Kumar, assistant in the office of Patna District Magistrate.

Highest bribe-takers in Bihar caught by the Vigilance Department:
1. Arvind Kumar, executive engineer — caught while accepting Rs1.6 million in bribe. (He had sought a total bribe of Rs8 mi llion.)
2. Suresh Prasad Singh, executive engineer — caught with Rs1.4 million of bribe money. (He had sought a total bribe of Rs2.8 million). Subsequent raids at his home led to the recovery of a further Rs23.6 million.
3. Om Prakash, additional district magistrate — Rs600,000 of bribe money. Subsequent raids at his residence led to the recovery of another Rs559,900.
4. Raja Ram Singh, clerk with the Land Department — Rs500,000.
5. Manoj Kumar Chaudhary, executive engineer — Rs400,000.
6. Maharshi Ram, additional collector — Rs400,000.
7. Kishun Mehta, clerk — Rs374,000.
8. Vinod Singh, circle officer — Rs200,000.
9. Sujit Kumar, inspector with Motor Vehicles Department — arrested taking Rs12,000 in cash, but raids after his arrest led to the recovery of Rs1.46 million in cash from his residence.
10. Inderjeet Rana, employee with the Education Department — arrested while accepting Rs8,000 in cash. Subsequent raids at his residence led to the recovery of Rs368,500 in cash.