The Rs. 657-crore Dalit Prerana Sthala - former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's dream project in Noida - is in trouble again.
Police investigations have revealed that crores of rupees were embezzled in sourcing elephant statues in Lucknow and transporting them to Noida. Police said the contractor was told to supply one statue for Rs. 60 lakh which should not cost more than Rs. 5 lakh.
The 33-acre park - which has 15 statues of Dalit 'icons', including two of the former CM, and 20 of elephants - was inaugurated by Mayawati in 2011, but is yet to be opened for public. The elephant is the party symbol of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party.
The scam was unearthed on Saturday, when one Madan Lal from Agra lodged an FIR against a UP Rajkiya Nirman Nigam Ltd (UPRNNL) contractor, Aditya Agarwal. UPRNNL was in-charge of building all Mayawati's parks and memorials in Noida and Lucknow.
Lal said Agarwal had told him to carve elephant statues. He said he was told the official rate of one elephant statue was Rs. 48 lakh, but was paid only Rs. 7.5 lakh.
Lal said while he was paid the agreed amount for the first two statues, he was paid only Rs. 7.5 lakh for the third statue.
The police arrested Agarwal on Saturday and recovered the elephant statue and Rs. 63 lakh from his office in Lucknow.
Another sculptor from Agra filed a similar complaint against another UPRNNL contractor on Saturday. The sculptors said UPRNNL contractors and engineers floated firms overnight and gave them (the firms) the contracts.
These firms sub-let the contracts to sculptors, who were grossly underpaid. The Lucknow police on Monday raided the office of UPRNNL and recovered documents pointing to a nexus between officers and contractors.
Police lodged an FIR against two officers.
"Tender norms were tailor-made to favour certain contractors.
The contractors then sold the statues to the government at inflated prices. UPRNNL asked Agarwal to supply one statue for R60 lakh which should not cost more than Rs. 5 lakh," said a police officer in Lucknow.
The officer said a special team has been set up to probe the matter.
"We have sought cancellation of the passports of some top bureaucrats, who were involved in granting permission for the construction of the memorials in Lucknow and Noida," he added.
In April last year, the Noida authority got construction material samples taken from the park tested at a Delhi laboratory and found them of substandard quality.
The authority then sought departmental action against UPRNNL staff but nothing much happened.