Voted to power on graft plank, BJP govt goes soft on NH-74 land scam | dehradun | Hindustan Times
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Voted to power on graft plank, BJP govt goes soft on NH-74 land scam

The BJP government on June 1 transferred senior IAS officer D Senthil Pandiyan from the post of Kumaon commissioner. He had probed the compensation goof up in the NH-74 land acquisition. Even after two days, the social media is discussing whether the government was shielding the corrupt.

dehradun Updated: Jun 03, 2017 21:41 IST
Anupam Trivedi
Former chief minister Harish Rawat says money that the Congress got has nothing to do with the NH land scam.
Former chief minister Harish Rawat says money that the Congress got has nothing to do with the NH land scam.(HT Photo)

DEHRADUN: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that won the Uttarakhand assembly elections held earlier this year with a thumping majority, seems to have fallen flat on the issue of corruption.

During the election campaign, corruption was one issue that was highlighted against the Congress-led Harish Rawat government. The party has apparently gone soft on the financial bungling in the distribution of compensation of the land acquired for National Highway-74.

The BJP government on June 1 transferred senior IAS officer D Senthil Pandiyan from the post of Kumaon Commissioner. He had probed the compensation goof up in NH-74 acquisition. Even after two days, the social media is still discussing whether the government was shielding the corrupt.

“ @nitin_gadkari Sir news of u pressurzng Sri @tsrawatbjp in NH-72 Case & subsequent transfr of Mr. Senthil pandian raises dbts @narendramodi (sic)” tweeted @dvaitadvait1.

In fact, Pandiyan in March reported the financial bungling to the tune of ₹300 crorein the construction of NH-74 between Bajpur and Kiccha in Udham Singh Nagar bordering Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile, Trivendra Rawat took over the reins as chief minister on March 19 and declared zero tolerance against the corruption. A week later, he suspended six Provisional Civil Services (PCS) officers allegedly involved in the case and recommended for a CBI probe. It is alleged that besides the officials, a section of ruling BJP and opposition Congress got a share in the pie, which both the parties refuse.

Two months after the state referred for the CBI probe, Union surface transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari took strong objection to the names of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials figuring in an FIR lodged by the government. The minister, in his letter, to Rawat also objected on the CBI probe. “We would have to re-examine the usefulness for taking up more projects in the state,” Gadkari wrote in the letter.

The state government has apparently softened its voice after receiving the letter. Government spokesperson Madan Kaushik said the government has not decided on the alternative SIT probe as discussed in the party circles. BJP president Ajay Bhatt denied the government is going soft on corruption and said the state will wait “for the word from CBI”.

It is alleged couple of land sharks joined hands with the administrative officials and purchased agricultural land from farmers, converted its land use into commercial under Section 143 of the Land Act before it was finally acquired by NHAI. The compensation paid to the beneficiaries for commercial land is almost 10 times higher than the agricultural land, and this is how “some” allegedly made a huge amount of money by getting much higher compensation. The land use change of the agriculture land allegedly began in 2012-13 and continued till 2015.

After getting a whiff of the financial bungling, Pandiyan - who was posted by the previous Congress government in October as Kumaon Commissioner - started internal probe. On March 1, he found financial irregularities of around ₹118 crore, which later rose to ₹300 crore. A first information report (FIR) was filed with the police naming couple of state government officials and also three top regional officials of the NHAI. The NHAI has moved Uttarakhand High Court challenging the naming of their officials in the FIR.

Interestingly fingers are also being pointed out at the previous Congress government. A Congress bank account operational during the elections received few crores transferred from the US Nagar district, where the financial bungling took place. Former CM Harish Rawat says money that the party got has nothing to do with the NH scam.

“Our accounts are transparent. We challenge journalists and government to conduct investigation,” former CM told HT. He went on to say that any black sheep in the Congress when the financial goof up took place are now with the BJP.

“BJP should show guts and initiate probe,” he demanded.