Day 3 of CBI raid at TMC MLA’s home in job scam; pond drained to recover phones
CBI officials said TMC MLA Jiban Krishna Saha had thrown two mobile phones in the water when the federal agency’s team arrived at his residence on Friday morning
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)’s raid at the residence of Jiban Krishna Saha, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislator from Burwan in Murshidabad district, ran into its third day on Sunday, making it the longest so far in the probe into the bribe-for-job scam in the West Bengal school education department.
Saha is the third sitting MLA under scanner in this case. Officials from the federal agency said they used three pumps for around 48 hours to drain a pond adjacent to Saha’s home as he had thrown two mobile phones in the water when the CBI team arrived on Friday morning. The team was escorted by paramilitary force personnel.
An earth mover was brought in on Sunday afternoon to dig out the sludge since hired labourers could find only one phone after the water was fully drained.
Documents linked to a few hundred people who apparently paid bribe for school jobs were found in three bags that were allegedly stashed in shrubs and bushes behind Saha’s house, CBI officials said.
“Documents relating to properties and businesses bought by the MLA in Murshidabad and Birbhum districts were also found inside the house,” a CBI official said on condition of anonymity.
In May 2022, Calcutta high court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay ordered the CBI to probe the appointment of non-teaching staff (Group C and D) and teaching staff by the West Bengal School Service Commission and West Bengal Board of Secondary Education between 2014 and 2021.
The appointees allegedly paid bribes in the range of ₹5-15 lakh to get jobs after failing the selection tests.
The suspected involvement of TMC leaders surfaced when the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is conducting a parallel probe, arrested education minister Partha Chatterjee and his aide Arpita Mukherjee on July 23, 2022. Chatterjee was dropped from the government and suspended from the TMC.
In its first charge sheet filed on September 19, ED said it traced cash, jewellery and immovable property worth ₹103.10 crore linked to the duo.
TMC legislator from Nadia district and former president of the primary education board, Manik Bhattacharya, was arrested by ED on October 11 last year. He is also in judicial custody and has been named as a key accused in the ED’s second charge sheet.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has mounted pressure on the TMC following the marathon raid at Saha’s home.
“We have information that around 100 TMC MLAs are involved in the scam. They collected bribe in exchange for jobs. If these MLAs land behind bars, the TMC will have a tough time saving its government,” leader of the Opposition in the legislative assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, said on Saturday.
TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said, “Those who are guilty will obviously be punished. But information about this raid is being selectively leaked to the media to project a negative image of the state government.”
On Friday, the CBI raided six locations in Bengal, including Saha’s home in Murshidabad. A construction site at New Town on the eastern outskirts of Kolkata and some places in Birbhum district were also raided.
The search operations started hours before Union home minister Amit Shah arrived in Bengal to launch the BJP’s Lok Sabha campaign in the state. He addressed a rally at Suri town in Birbhum district.
Criticised by two Calcutta high court judges, who observed that the CBI investigation appeared slow and directionless, the agency recently brought in seven officers from other states to add pace to the probe.