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Sabharwal going on leave amidst drug probe raises many an eyebrow

“Is there something to it than meets the eye in Director of Excise Enforcement Directorate Akun Sabharwal going on 10-day leave from Saturday in the midst of investigations by the SIT in the dreaded drug racket has reached a crucial stage?

This question started making rounds once again in various circles, especially political circles, though Akun Sabharwal made it amply clear that he was going on leave for personal reasons and there was no need to read much into it. It may be mentioned here that when the Excise Enforcement Directorate had unearthed the operation of a drug mafia in the twin cities targeting school and college students and a number of arrests were made in this connection, including that of kingpin of the mafia Calvin, Akun Sabharwal while interacting with the media had revealed that advisory notices were issued to a number of schools and colleges.

Though the Director of the Excise Directorate had not revealed the names of the institutions to which notices were issued and also to which institutions the students, who procured the drugs of the mafia belonged to, there were various speculations in the media wherein the names of the institutions were also mentioned. This has understandably created a panic not only among the managements of the institutions but also among the parents.

As reports about the magnitude of the drug mafia’s operation in the twin cities targeting students began to attract wide coverage in the media as well as in the TV channels, a perturbed Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao directed Deputy Chief Minister Kadiam Srihari, who is holding Education portfolio, to convene a high-level meeting with all concerned to take appropriate measures to check the menace from spreading further.

            Accordingly, the Deputy CM convened a meeting of top officials of the Police, Excise, Intelligence and Education departments to apprise himself of the situation. During the meeting where in  Akun Sabharwal was also present, the Deputy CM reportedly taken to task the Director of Excise Directorate for revealing the names of educational institutions to which advisory notices were issued.

The Deputy Chief Minister is understood to have been irked when managements of certain institutions with which some influential persons, including politicians were connected, complained to him that the names of their institutions were getting damaged due to the publicity in the media. Thus, the Deputy Chief Minister seemed to have taken serious view about Akun Sabharwal allegedly leaking the names of the institutions which the latter had stoutly denied.

However, what came as a surprise to the media personnel covering the drug racket was the sudden “missing” of Akun Sabharwal when attempts were made to seek information of new developments, if any, in the investigations. The staff of the Directorate only said the Director was “not well” and hence did not attend the office. When this was highlighted in the media, Akun Sabharwal appeared on the scene to put an end to further speculations in the matter.

Though Akun Sabharwal was lying low while dealing with the media with regard to the investigations in the drug racket, he was forced to come onto the scene once again when the SIT established a link between the drug mafia and the film industry. Again the media, both print and electronic, were flooded with reports about the drug mafia’s activities in the Telugu film world.

Even as the SIT was getting ready to interrogate many from Tollywood by issuing notices to appear before it personally from July 19 onwards, Akun Sabharwal proceeding on leave triggered off another speculation about  influential artistes from Tollywood mounting pressure on the powers-that-be in the State to “go slow” in the matter lest it might affect the Telugu film industry.

When asked whether he was going on leave under political pressure, Akun Sabharwal stoutly refuted and said he was going on leave for  personal reasons. He also made it clear that there was no political intervention and that the government was extending 100 percent cooperation and support in the investigations. However, his explanation could not hold water in political circles, especially the Opposition parties, who see there was something more in the matter.

            Senior Congress leader Mallu Ravi lashed out at the State government saying it was trying blatantly to dilute the investigations in the racket by putting hurdles in the functioning of Akun Sabharwal. When the Investigation was proceeding in full swing with explosive revelations coming to light every day, the officer-in-charge of the probe going on leave raised many doubts, he charged and wanted Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his ministers not to meddle with the fair investigation to put an end to the drug menace. (NSS)