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Punjab Gov goes ballistic against Union Minister

The Chandigarh Mega projects row : Punjab Governor questions the Home Ministry's authority to put his land acquisition under the scanner. " I am guilty of not allowing people to do something wrong" Gen Rodrigues tells Hindustan Times Resident Editor Ramesh Vinayak, in an exclusive interview.

india Updated: Oct 20, 2009 12:49 IST
Ramesh Vinayak

In the eye of a storm over the alleged irregularities in the Chandigarh mega projects revealked by the Union Home Ministry audit report and a Central Vilgilance Commission ordering a CBI probe into two of the projects, Gen Rodrigues launched a frontal attack against Union Minister-Chandigarh MP Pawan Bansal, his long-time bete noire, and his top bureaucrat adviser Pradip Mehra. He also questioned the Home Ministry's authority to put his land acquisition under the scanner. " I am guilty of not allowing people to do something wrong" Gen Rodrigues told Resident Editor Ramesh Vinayak, in an exclusive interview.

Q: What do make out of the the Central Vigilance Commission and the audit report of Ministry of Home Affairs calling into question all your pet mega projects?

Gen Rodrigues: I have been deeply concerned by what appears to be a concerted attack on not just the work that is being done in Chandigarh but basically on me as an individual. In this process, there has been no holds barred. They have attacked me on a variety of fronts, questioning my motives, my commitment to this country and even my integrity.

Q: Who is behind all this?

A: I am being targeted by all those who see me as threat to their business interests. Of course, Pawan Bansal and his cronies are in the forefront in orchestrating all this to pressurize me to do their bidding and to discredit me and the administration.Bansal wanted to control me because this is what he had been doing to previous administrators by promising to help them get an extension in office. I am not vulnerable at all.

Q: But, you seem to be at odds with just about every interest groups in Chandigarh?

That is because I am scrupulously following the law of the land. Before I took over in November 2004, Chandigarh has been treated as the private fiefdom of a little group of pople who seemed to be beyond the law and accountable to no one. They were offended as I played by the book. They were mortally scared that I would throw the book at them which I did by exposing the wrong doings in the land allotment to the Law Institute and the Delhi Public School Society

Q: But, you are not on evening speaking term with your senior most bureaucrat?

A:Let me correct you that I have very cordial relations with my bureaucrats with one exception. And that is Adviser Pradip Mehra who has tried to torpedo our mega projects and is in cahoots with Pawan Bansal.They want to portray that Rodrigues is incompetent and there is a case for moving him out.

Q: But why now when your five year term is ending next month?

A: This is a game plan. They are targeting me because I have been standing in the way of their wrong doings. I challenged the fat-cats masquerading as farmers and trying to scuttle land acquisitions for the phase III of the IT Project.All this lovely barrage has been timed to make out that I am not running a good set up. And, the cases against them are coming to a head. So they are desperate to get me out of the way so that they get an administrator who is pliable.

Q: But, both the CVC and the audit report have pointed out serious irregularities in land acquisition for mega projects?

A: I can tell you that there is not a single wrong doing in all these projects. Every process and procedure mandated by the law has been followed.

Q: But, the lapses that the CVC found were serious enough to recommend a CBI inquiry into two of your projects?

A: The feedback that I got from the CVC is that there has been no malafide intent in land acquisition. Nowhere has it named me. There might have been some procedural lapses. Every single thing has been done as per the rules.

Q: The MHA audit report has been sweeping in damning the way land acquisitions norms were flouted and big companies given government real estate at throw away prices?

A: The best thing for anything is sunlight.First of all, this is just a preliminary draft report. And, this is the first time I have seen an audit where we have been criticized for paying less and not more.

Q:So, what is wrong with the audit report?

A: Everything is wrong with this. They ( the MHA officials) got their facts wrong as they don’t know what authority is vested with the Chandigarh Administrator. How can you apply to me what you have been doing elsewhere in the country. This Union Territory and joint capital of two states is run under the Reorganization of States Act of 1966 and everything is as per that. In fact I told the Home Minister that your people don’t know what rules are governing Chandigarh..

Q: So you are questioning the very basis of the CVC action and MHA report ?

Yes, I am . All this, to me, appears orchestrated and has seriously impacted on our functioning as all sorts of letters were being fired at us.

Q: What specifically did you tell Prime Minister last week when the CVC recommended CBI inquiry?

A: I only said please tell me what is our authority and what I am supposed to do. I am hopelessly confused. Because now I am in an envious position where I am getting directions from there ( the Centre) and am being accountable here.

Q: Are you willing to face up to your role for not allegedly going by the rule book?

Yes I am. There are no irregularities in land allotments. Yet I am guilty of not allowing people to do something wrong.

Q: Your detractors charge you for not taking Pawan Bansal, four-time MP on board on even broader issues concerning UT?

A: It is Bansal who spurned every overture I made to bring him on board for all our development initiatives. He was offended when I introduced Citizens’ Charter in each department that made the administration open, transparent and responsive. But, this also clipped lot of wings. Also, Bansal was offended when I pointed out serious irregularities in the land allotment to the DPS society which is headed by Ambika Soni’s husband. It has Soni and Bansal as vice chairpersons and their family members as directors.This automatically put me in collision course with both Bansal and Soni because this was like a time bomb.From then onwards, I was seen as potential threat to their business interests.

Q: Bansal charged you with crushing the democratic institutions?

A: Possibly we are on different wave length because democracy, to me, is the voice of people. Democracy to him seems to be that he tells somebody what to do.

Q: Do you feel Bansal and Mehra are behind the Home Ministry’s move on bringing the mega projects under scanner?

A: Very much so. Mehra has been acting like mole. He is completely useless and doesn’t understand even half of what is happening in the administration. He torpedoed the Medicity project and has been leaking out every damn thing to the press, and has been trying to put spanner in our projects.

Q: So you are not expecting an extension?

I will not lobby for anything. I have done my duty and followed the constitution to the best of my ability.

Q: What will be the fate of your mega projects ?

They are very much on track.

Q How do you look at the Union Home Ministry’s move to divest the Punjab Governor’s of charge as the UT Administrator and instead put into place the pre-1984 Chief Commissioner system?

This will be a disaster. All that you will do is make the poor man ( Chief Commissioner) a whipping boy and a scapegoat for everything.