New Delhi: The annual statement of immovable property that was filed by disgraced Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer of 2000 Jharkhand batch, Pooja Singhal, on 10 January 2022, lists four properties in her name.
A house worth Rs 30 lakh at Vedic, Rajarhat, Kolkata, a 7,800 square feet plot in Ranchi Kanke that she got for Rs 88,000, a 4,500 square feet commercial space worth Rs 1.10 crore in Ranchi and another house worth Rs 80 lakh in Ranchi.
In total, as per admission before her cadre controller, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), she owned, either jointly or by herself, property worth Rs 2.20 crore. Every all India Central Service Officer under Rule 18 of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 has to annually declare the immovable property inherited by him, or owned or acquired by him or held by him on lease or mortgage, either in his own name or in the name of any member of his family or in the name of any other person; (b) shares, debentures and cash including bank deposits in herited by him or similarly owned, acquired, or held by him; (c) other movable property inherited by him or similarly owned, acquired or held by him; and (d) debts and other liabilities incurred by him directly or indirectly.
This rule was inserted into the service clause to stop bureaucrats from misusing their authority to accumulate personal wealth for themselves.
However, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which took Singhal into custody on Wednesday, has found that she was the owner of Rs 19 crore cash and property worth Rs 20 crore, that have not been mentioned by her anywhere in any of the annual returns she has filed. These properties, as per official sources, are in the name of her close associates. Among the business ventures that she has interest in is a Ranchi based hospital that is run by her husband.
The said hospital, Pulse Superspeciality Hospital, is part of the Pulse Sanjeevani Healthcare Private Limited, a private company that was incorporated on 21 November 2011. The hospital, which is run by her husband, Abhishek Jha, has four other directors, including Amita Jha, Siddharth Singhal, Dipti Banerjee and Ishita Purwar. The hospital has a liability of almost Rs 26 crore with HDFC bank and of Rs 5 crore with Yes Bank.
At the time the hospital was launched, the July 1978 born Singhal was serving as the Deputy Commissioner of Palamu. Singhal’s ex-husband, Rahul Kumar Purwar, is a 1999 batch (Jharkhand cadre) IAS officer. Even though the couple got divorced later, ED officials said money trail shows that both were still connected. This has been denied by those who know Purwar.
Purwar is on study leave since December 2020 as he pursues Masters in Public Policy at Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.
Singhal, irrespective of the party ruling the state or the Chief Minister staying at CM Niwas, Kanke, has stayed in a position of power. When the BJP government was sworn in, in December 2014, she was OSD to the Chief Secretary, a position that she continued to hold till March 2017. In April 2017, she became the Secretary in the Agriculture and Animal Husbandry department.
She continued in the said post even when the Das-led BJP lost and Hemant Soren became the new CM in December 2019. It was not before April 2021 that she was given another lucrative post, that of Secretary, Industries department and then given the additional charge of Secretary Mines and Mineral departments. In effect, in the last seven years, she has been transferred just twice, both to a much better post than the last.
The 43-year-old Singhal had joined the service when she was just 21 years old and she was on her way to become the Chief Secretary of the state. According to a Jharkhand cadre IAS officer, who is now retired, Singhal is not an aberration but a norm. “We all knew that she was hiding the properties she owned that are in her relatives’ and her associates’ name. These kinds of things don’t stay hidden but no one talks about it publicly because of fear of either reprisal or because they themselves have ill-gotten wealth. Such voluntary disclosure of property is not going to serve the purpose unless the government brings in a rule to link all property ownership to Aadhar. But the question is who will do this? Most of the political leaders themselves are followers of Singhal model of accumulating wealth,” he remarked.