In a startling claim, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik Wednesday said Rs 300 crore would have changed hands as kickbacks, had he not cancelled two deals between the state government and private companies after taking charge last year.
He claimed that the prevalence of corruption was more in Kashmir than in the rest of the country as "the ruling elite was itself involved" in it.
"As far as corruption is concerned, after I came here, I cancelled two deals in which Rs 150 crore each was agreed upon (as kickbacks). I spoke to secretaries and they admitted that such a thing had happened. Very powerful people were involved," Malik told a press conference here, without providing details of the deals.
He claimed that some of the people involved in these cancelled deals were so powerful that they had "direct approach up to the prime minister".
On one of the deals, Malik said, "I asked the PM if I had the permission to cancel this deal or I will sign on the paper and will not continue (as Governor)."
He said while the government will catch the small fry any time, even the big fish will not be spared.
"We are under the scanner of the Centre and the prime minister. You can rest assured that a beginning has been made," he said.
Malik said the state government has reconstituted the Anti-Corruption Bureau and some cases have been referred to it.
"Some cases have been sent to it including some cases where people up to the rank of ministers were involved. You will come to know about it in a few days," he said.
The Governor said although he had been in public life for 50 years, he had to seek a bank loan to pay for a flat.
"I was taking care of studies of an orphan. When my wife was suffering from cancer, she told me to give her a flat. I had to take a bank loan to pay Rs 50 lakh that was to be paid in white even though I have been an MLA, MP and minister four times. So I have no fear...I will deal with it (corruption) very strictly," he added.
The Governor said while there were many clean and honest secretaries in the government, he would request those indulging in minor corruption to stop it.
"Corruption is there and corruption is more in Kashmir than in rest of the country. The reason for it is that the ruling elite was itself involved in it. Now that is not going to happen.
"A politician once told me that you are maligning (them). I told him I am not maligning anyone. Everywhere in the country they ask for two per cent, in Kashmir they ask for 12 per cent. That is why no investments come here. If you want to open a restaurant, it takes four years to get the licence," he said.
Malik said even victims of militancy-related violence had to pay bribes to get appointment orders on compassionate grounds.
Chief secretary B V R Subrahmanyam said as part of an anti-corruption campaign, the government has formed several fact-finding committees of senior secretaries with impeccable reputation.
"They will submit reports this month. The action will be taken immediately. This is extremely important for us. Our ACB is as powerful as CBI," he said.
The chief secretary said the government has given teeth to the ACB for dealing with the menace of corruption.
"We have amended the act in December. All of this takes time; we cannot pounce on anyone with a toothless body. The lion's teeth need to be sharpened and that is what we have done. It is a very powerful body with zero tolerance for corruption. Those who have done something wrong are going to face consequences," he added.