JUSTICE SIDESHWAR Narayan Commission report on the ‘controversial’ Taj Expressway Industrial Development Project, which gave a clean chit not only to the then Mayawati government but also to some of the bureaucrats, who allegedly favoured the Jaiprakash Industries Limited (JIL) by okaying the agreement, has evoked mixed response from bureaucrats.
The Mulayam Singh Yadav government wasted no time in ordering an inquiry into the deal as soon as it came to power in the State. Deal for the unique project, in which the State Government was not required to spend a single penny from its coffers for construction of an international standard 182-kilometre-long eight-lane expressway between Noida and Agra, was signed between the Mayawati government and the JIL.
The JIL, in lieu, was to get 250 hectares of land along the proposed expressway and was free to develop it in any manner. The acquisition cost of the land was also to be borne by the company. However, it was alleged that land worth hundreds of crores was gifted away to the JIL by the government, in which a coterie of officials also played a crucial role.
Justice Sideshwar observed in his report that the project was of immense public utility and was also in national interest. The report further said the contract as per the concession agreement dated February 7, 2003, was lawful, valid and still subsisting contract, enforceable in law.
The most relevant observation of Justice Sideshwar in the report was that “the costs and obligation, agreed in the contract, were based on policy decisions of the State Government after due deliberations while preparing the bid documents and those would be deemed to be adequate on the facts and in the circumstances of the case.”
It further observed that “the lease of about 250 hectare of land for development in Stage-1 in favour of M/S JIL (now Jaiprakash Associates Limited) was consistent with the terms and conditions in the bid documents and also the concession agreement dated February 7, 2003, determined as a result of due deliberations at various stages.” The report has recommended that “prosecution of the project was emergent and should proceed ahead with immediate effect removing deadlocks at any level.”
Can the dignity of the officers involved in preparing and implementing the project be restored by the report, asked an enraged officer. He, on the condition of anonymity, alleged that an excellent project which would have been completed by now and benefited the state and its people immensely, failed due to politics.
Another officer said that observations made by Justice Sideshwar should act as an eye-opener for politicians, who were willing to go to any extent to settle scores with their political rivals.
The Mayawati government had approved the agreement with the JIL on February 7, 2003, but Mulayam government appointed Justice Srirang Mishra Commission on September 26, 2003 to probe the deal. But as its report was rejected by the Allahabad High Court on May 10, 2004, a two-member committee, headed by Vijay Shankar Mathur, former commissioner of the Central Vigilance Commission, was appointed to probe the deal.
The committee’s proceedings were stayed by the High Court. After the State Government failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court against the High Court’s stay, it constituted the Justice Sideshwar Narayan Commission, which submitted its report to the State Government on October 12, 2006.
The government accepted and approved the same at the Cabinet meeting held here on Friday.