Lucknow: Graft has found a new ally in Uttar Pradesh -- fire and canines. In the past six months, hundreds of crucial files in state offices have either been destroyed or damaged in suspicious fires or, as it happened recently, were "chewed up, torn and destroyed" by stray dogs. Strangely, this seems to be happening only in UP.
The fact that two stray dogs not only found their way inside the high-security sprawling secretariat past gun-toting security personnel but were also left locked inside "unnoticed" by the security staff is something that not many, even in the ruling dispensation, are accepting easily.
To add to the theatre of absurd, these dogs chewed up crucial files in the secondary education department pertaining to financial aid and grants to schools across the state.
While a probe has been ordered into the issue which has left the state government red-faced, the opposition is crying foul and alleging that the whole incident smacks of "a larger conspiracy to dispose of uncomfortable files and spare the tainted", Vijay Bahadur Pathak, state spokesman of the BJP told IANS.
"It is both laughable and a matter of great seriousness that the government wants everyone to take the incident at its face value," he says while alleging that the files were apparently done away with to save the skin of UPSC chairman and senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Anil Yadav, who has been under fire for his conduct.
Secretary of 'Sachivalaya Prashasan' Prabhat Mittal, however, says that the government has taken a serious note of the matter. A probe has been ordered to fix responsibility and the guilty would be taken to task, he asserted.
Other than this, officials say the Lucknow Nagar Nigam (LNN) has also been asked to tackle the stray dog menace and sanitise the precincts of the secretariat.
Suspicion, however, continues to linger as Monday's incident is not an isolated one. In the past six-odd months, many important files in several vital departments have ceased to exist -- either destroyed in fire suspected to be triggered by the proverbial electrical short-circuit or stolen.
Several files of the revenue department have gone missing, more than 35 files with important notings on decisions have disappeared from the rural development department and the health directorate has witnessed three major and minor fires -- all ended up in important files getting "lost".
With the health directorate being the epicentre of the multi-billion-rupee National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) during the Mayawati regime some years back, the fire incidents are being seen with a lot of suspicion by all and sundry.
A probe into the health office fire has revealed that it was not accidental but deliberate. The fire at senior IAS officer Aradhna Shukla's residence in Noida a day ago is also being seen with suspicion.
Shukla and her IAS husband Pradip Shukla have a controversial past and were reinstated by the state government only recently. Pradeep Shukla is the prime accused in the NRHM scam and has served time in prison.
All this also comes as a headache for the SP government as Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has been pitching for digitisation of files and government communication. His office has also embarked on a paperless concept.
Fire and canines, though, seem to be putting a spanner in these efforts.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at email@example.com)