Vigilance raid in KSFE: Pinarayi keeps Isaac at a distance, holds Srivastava close

Pinarayi sheds his non-confrontationist Buddha bearing, tears into central agencies
Pinarayi Vijayan ridiculed the conspiracy theory by saying the media functioned like a "syndicate".

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, when he finally broke his silence on the 'vigilance raids' at Kerala State Financial Enterprises (KSFE) branches, rejected the stand of his finance minister Thomas Isaac (who said they were done in violation of rules) and gave solid backing to his police advisor and former DGP Raman Srivastava (who it was alleged was behind the raids).

Vijayan said the "vigilance flash checks" were routine affairs, and also made it amply clear that there was sufficient proof for the Vigilance to act the way it did.

He ridiculed the conspiracy theory by saying the media functioned like a "syndicate". Truth is, it were his own comrades - CPM state secretariat member Anathalavattom Anandan, the KSFE chairman Peelippose Thomas and the LDF ally, the CPI - who first raised the possibility of a "conspiracy" behind the Vigilance action.

Vijayan said the VACB would conduct such checks only after following a thorough process, a clear attempt to junk Isaac's charge that the raids were arbitrary. Vijayan's step-by-step description of how the Vigilance went about its job also seemed like a reproach to Isaac who had exhorted KSFE officials to block Vigilance officials from entering KSFE branches.

"When they get secret information about irregularities, the intelligence wing of the VACB will conduct a probe in stealth. If the information is found to be true, the unit heads would prepare source reports. And these would then be sent to the VACB headquarters through the range superintendent of police," the Chief Minister said.

In this case, the Chief Minister said the Vigilance Malappuram unit DySP, acting on the basis of secret information, conducted an undercover probe and found that activities in certain KSFE branches could threaten the very existence of the institution. On October 27, this report was sent to the VACB headquarters through the North Zone SP.

"The VACB director, after verifying the source, issued the order for the flash checks on November 10. The flash check, 'Operation Bachat', were conducted in 40 KSFE branches on November 27.

He said the Vigilance team required only the nod of the Vigilance director, and emphasised that the director himself had issued the order for the KSFE vigilance checks. There were allegations that the order was issued by Vigilance IG H Venkatesh while the director, Sudesh Kumar, was on leave.

The Chief Minister further said the Vigilance team would not take any punitive action on the basis of these checks. "They would only sent a report to the government," the Chief Minister said.

To once again drive home that nothing unprecedented has happened as Isaac suggested, Vijayan said Operation Bachat was the seventh vigilance flash check done in various government departments in 2020. "Because of Covid, the number was less this year. In 2019, there were 18 flash checks," he said. One of the checks in 2019 was in the Police Department.

The Chief Minister refuted the charge that his advisor Raman Srivastava was behind the flash check. It was alleged that Srivastava was working for the interests of private financial institutions by attempting to induce public panic about KSFE's credibility. Before he took over as Vijayan's advisor, Srivastava was the security head of a prominent private financial institution.

"The advisor cannot play any role in the day to day activities of institutions under the Home Department. He cannot control anything directly. No one need to report to him nor anyone is bound to take orders from him," he said.

Vijayan also termed as "false" reports that it was Srivastava who was behind the amendment to the Kerala Police Act, which the government had to eventually withdraw.

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