Hours before he was to appear before the CBI in a corruption case Wednesday, Home Ministry Under Secretary Anand Joshi disappeared from his Indirapuram home, leaving behind a note for his wife in which he claimed he had been subjected to “mental harassment” in recent months.
His family said Joshi had been undergoing treatment for depression for nearly two decades.
The CBI registered a corruption case against him Monday and claimed searches at his house and office had led to the recovery of Rs 7.5 lakh and documents, including files pertaining to the Home Ministry and the I&B Ministry.
Also accused of being in illegal possession of a file relating to actions under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) against activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Sabrang Trust, Joshi, while speaking to The Indian Express Tuesday, accused his seniors of targeting him because he “refused to go soft” on donor agency Ford Foundation.
“I was offered around Rs 200-250 crore to remove Ford Foundation from a blacklist. When I refused, the organisation lodged a complaint with the PMO. Officers in my department, such as Additional Secretary B K Prasad, began pressuring me to give a clean chit to Ford Foundation. When I refused, all these allegations of corruption were levelled against me. I never removed the file on Sabrang Trust either,” Joshi alleged.
Prasad dismissed the allegation, saying “he (Joshi) is talking rubbish. This is a matter of CBI investigation. The truth will come out.”
A statement issued by Ford Foundation Wednesday said, “Recent allegations that the Ford Foundation offered a Rs 250-crore bribe are outlandish and untrue. No such overture or suggestion has ever been made, and the foundation rejects this desperate allegation completely and unequivocally.”
“The Ford Foundation is proud of its record of partnership with the people of India and around the world over the last 60 years. Our mission to reduce poverty and injustice, strengthen democratic values, promote international cooperation and advance human achievement is manifest in the thousands of Indian institutions, research institutes, prominent academics and leading civil society organisations that we have invested in since 1952. This history is a testament both to what we believe and how we behave,” it said.
“We have a deep and thorough respect for the Government of India and for the laws of the land. Over the past year, we have worked diligently to address issues raised by government and renew a partnership built on trust. We are honoured to be able to serve the people and institutions of India and look forward to many more years of doing so,” the foundation said.
On Wednesday, after her husband went missing, Meenakshi Joshi repeated the allegation he had made: “He was under a lot of pressure.
He was transferred last year after accusations of accepting bribes from NGOs were made against him. During his tenure as Under Secretary, he had put a ban on Ford Foundation. This happened after a woman associated with the company approached him in December and offered him Rs 250 crore. He refused to take the money. The woman then went to the PMO and filed a complaint against him. He was then questioned regarding these charges.”
She said when she woke up around 7 am, her husband was missing — they live in Media Times Apartments in Indirapuram.
“The main door was ajar. We called all our friends and relatives but couldn’t find him. Ghaziabad police registered a missing person’s case. He only left behind a note. He had been under a lot of stress lately. He has been taking medicines for depression. Last night, he did not eat. People are saying he disappeared because he is guilty in the corruption case. They should conduct a proper inquiry into the matter, everything will be clear,” she said.
“The CBI searched our house on Sunday. All they found was Rs 7.5 lakh, of which Rs 5 lakh belonged to my father-in-law. Even at the bank, they found jewellery worth Rs 1.5 lakh. If my husband was a corrupt officer, will he have only this much money with him?” Meenakshi asked.
In the note he left behind for her, Joshi wrote, “For the last few months, I have undergone a lot of mental harassment but now it has crossed all limits… I need some peace which is not possible here. I am leaving the house. Please do not try to look for me. Now, you will have to be the father and mother of our children… After serving my country with patriotism and integrity, I did not expect this. I have probably made a lot of enemies while working for the country. It pains me to leave but right now I am unable to understand anything.”
SSP Ghaziabad Dharmendra Kumar said a report was filed after the family approached police. “A missing person’s report has been filed at Indirapuram police station in the evening. Investigations are underway. If he is not found in two days, a case under relevant sections of the IPC will be filed,” Kumar said.
While Home Ministry officials declined comment saying the case against Joshi was being investigated by the CBI, the probe agency said it would send summons again. “He was supposed to appear before CBI today. We will summon him again,” a CBI spokesperson said.
Official sources claimed Joshi had sent notices to around 60 NGOs for “violation” of FCRA provisions in November 2015. Some of Joshi’s seniors in the Home Ministry may be questioned by investigators over the notices to the NGOs, sources said.
— With ENS inputs