M A I N   N E W S

4th death in UP health scam, key accused shoots himself
Shahira Naim/TNS

Lucknow, January 23
A key official allegedly involved in the Rs 5,000-crore National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam in Uttar Pradesh today committed suicide at his Lucknow residence, taking the total number of unnatural deaths linked to the scandal to four.
These developments, right in the middle of electioneering, has huge implications for the ruling BSP. 

Project manager Sunil Verma shot himself at his Vikas Nagar residence at around 8:30 am. He was taken to a private hospital where the doctors declared him as brought dead. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

According to family sources, Verma had been under depression since the CBI had carried out searches at his residence on January 4. His name along with the then Family Welfare Minister Babu Singh Kushwaha had figured in the FIR lodged by the CBI on that day. 

Lucknow Range DIG DK Thakur confirmed that a suicide note had been found from Verma’s house where he pleaded innocence in the NHRM scam.

“In the note, he says he was upset due to the raids,” said Thakur. An assistant engineer in the UP Jal Nigam, Verma was a designated as project manager of the Construction and Design Division of UPJN which was responsible for the upgrade of 134 hospitals across the state under the NRHM.

The NRHM scam surfaced after the murder of two CMOs and a deputy CMO in the Family Welfare Department died under mysterious circumstances. Dr VK Arya was killed while he was taking a morning walk near his Vikas Nagar residence on October 27, 2010 and Dr BP Singh was murdered on April 2, 2011. Deputy CMO Y S Sachan, arrested in connection of the financial irregularities in NHRM, was found dead inside the Lucknow district jail on June 22, 2011.

Later, on the recommendation of the Allahabad High Court, the Mayawati government directed the CBI to inquire into the misuse of NRHM funds and the death of CMOs. The central agency is probing irregularities in funds disbursed to 72 Chief Medical Officers across the state.

Two former ministers in the Mayawati government - Babu Singh Kushwaha and Anant Mishra - along with the then Principal Secretary Health and Family Welfare were relieved of their posts following the NHRM scam coming out in the open.

The CBI has already lodged 8 FIRs in the case naming 18 persons of which eight are already behind bars. Three more senior officials, including the then Principal Secretary, Health Pradeep Shukla, being interrogated by the CBI in Delhi are expected to be arrested very soon.

On January 4, the CBI raided 60 office and residences of officials concerned, contractors and firms, including the residence of Verma, who committed suicide today while another 44 places were raided last week.

A special team of the CBI is investigating the NRHM scam, which has cast a shadow over the ongoing Assembly elections.

Adding to Mayawati government’s woes on January 20, the Comptroller and Auditor General had found anomalies in the spending of around Rs 5,000 crore under the scheme in about two dozen districts of the state.

The CAG report states that the UP Health Department had failed to give proper details of spending worth around Rs 5,000 crore of the Rs 8,657 crore given to the state. It has also indicted health and family welfare department functionaries, middlemen and contractors for allegedly guzzling the huge amounts released between 2005 and 2011 under the health mission. 

Digvijay for CBI investigation

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh has asked the CBI to probe the suicide of Sunil Verma. Talking to the media at the UPCC headquarters here, he said: “It is very sad. But I doubt if it was a case of suicide. It appears to be a big conspiracy linked to the multi-crore NHRM scam which has now claimed its fourth victim.”





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