HOWGOVT ENDEDVIMLA'S MURTI RAJ.
AM AIL T ODAY report and one anguished letter is what it took to trigger a chain of events that ended Tihar chief Vimla Mehra's run at the Capital's infamous prison. It all started with a marble statue that Mehra got made in her likeness and installed within Tihar Jail. M AIL T ODAY reported the bizarre development on May 28, headlining it ' Mata, Marble & Mehra'. Less than two months later, Mehra had been shunted out because of the statue. This is how it all went down.
A letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office is the apparent starting point of the chain of events that culminated in Mehra's sudden removal.
MAIL TODAY is in possession of the letter ( see report inside) and in the loop on directions issued from top offices, including the Ministry of Home Affairs ( MHA) and the Delhi Lieutenant Governor's office.
The letter dated June 9 was written by former MP Veena Verma-- widow of literatteur Nirmal Verma-- and had annexed a clipping of the M AIL T ODAY report. It contained a summary of facts regarding the entire statue affair as well as Mehra's other alleged wrongdoings, including the rather hideous accusation that jail inmates were being coerced to bow to the marble idol, christened ' Vimla Maa' for this particular purpose.
" I am taking the liberty to draw your attention towards a matter of national shame and misconduct by a high government official. Director General of Prisons, Tihar Prisons Smt Vimla Mehra, IPS, has got a life size statute of hers erected inside Jail No 1 Tihar and prisoners are being forced to bow before the statue and worship her as ' Vimla Maa'," the letter said.
The MHA was seized of the matter soon enough, and followed it up with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung's office. On July 17, Jung ordered Mehra's transfer, whose obsession with her own statue was such that it had even figured in Tihar's inhouse magazine. The transfer landed in the form of a fax at about 2 pm, and issued what are called " Stand Relieved" orders, meaning command is to be relinquished immediately without waiting for a successor.
Mehra, only the second woman to serve as the DG of Tihar after former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, is also known to have restricted the number of times undertrials can meet their lawyers from five times a week to just once.
Tihar sources reveal that Mehra had some personal " issues" with the lawyer of inmate and former Haryana chief minister O. P. Chautala, and that led to the new restrictions.
Other unpopular decisions that Mehra is known to have taken include a ban on outside food for jail inmates, forcing them to eat jail food which is clear violation of Prison Act.
The letter alleges that the close to ` 30 lakh was spent on the construction of the statue which is inside the Jail No. 1 compound. " Not only was the statue erected inside prison, it was also inaugurated by Smt Mehra herself on 27th January 2014 in presence of other prison officials. Approximately Rs 30 lacs ( sic) were spent on the construction of this statue, its granite base and the flood lights surrounding it," Verma's letter alleges.
It is learnt that the case may be sent to the Central Bureau of Investigation once the preliminary report of the Delhi government on the expenditure incurred in making and installing the statue is filed.
Mehra and other Tihar officials may have tough days ahead.
Veena is the mother of Abhishek Verma, who is lodged in Tihar jail as the main accused in the Navy War Room Leak Case. Abhishek's wife Anca- Maria Verma had in the past alleged that she was assaulted while she was lodged in the jail.
The letter alleges that Mehra has misused public funds meant for the welfare of poor inmates and their reformation on construction of her own statue. " I humbly request you to have the matter of misuse of funds and misconduct of Smt Vimla Mehra investigated by the CBI as misappropriation of public funds is a punishable offence under Prevention of Corruption Act. Please also direct the concerned authorities for immediate removal of Smt Mehra's statue from Tihar Jail and order her suspension pending inquiry/ investigation so that she is unable to abuse her position as DG Prisons to falsify accounts and destroy evidence against her," the letter says.
; Vimla had a spat with the Badals after she denied them permission to meet former Haryana CM O. P. Chautala's son Abhay at Tihar.
; Was criticised for having a statue of herself made by a Tihar inmate installed on the premises.
; Vimla had accused her husband -- a former MCD commissioner -- of trying to extort money from her.
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