Stung by the barrage of controversy and criticism of the Chandigarh Administration’s ambitious mega projects, Punjab Governor-Administrator of Union Territory Gen S.F. Rodrigues ( retd) today hit out his detractors chiefly Union Minister-Chandigarh MP Pawan Bansal and his senior most bureaucrat-Adviser Pradeep Mehra, charging them for orchestrating a campaign to “ put me and my tenure under cloud.”
“ I am being targeted by Pawan Bansal and his cronies to pressurize me do their bidding and defame and discredit all the good work done by the administration” Gen Rodrigues told Hindustan Times publicly breaking his silence since the Union Home Ministry’s special audit came to the light last week and pointed out a slew of irregularities in the 123-acre land acquisition for Phase III of the Rajiv Gandhi Chandigarh Technology Park.
The leak coincided with the Central Vigilance Commission ( CVC) ordering a CBI probe into two of mega projects – a move that prompted a livid Administrator to take up the issue with Prime Minister. Gen Rodrigues finds himself in the eyes of storm a month before his five-year term comes to an end on November 16.
Combative and candid, Gen Rodrigues, in an unprecedented move, even tacitly questioned Union Home Ministry’s powers to put his decisions on land acquisition under the scanner. “They, I am sorry to say, don’t know what authority of vested with the Chandigarh Administrator” he said, alluding to the Reorganzation Act, 1966, of the Parliament that governs the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.
Stoutly defending the projects, Gen Rodrigues said : Not a single irregularity has been committed in their execution as every process mandated by the law was followed.”
To a pointed query if he was willing to face up to his role, Gen Rodrigues shot back : “Of course I am. I will resign if any probe brings out that any of my family member, friend or myself benefited from any projects.
His assertion only betrayed the sense of hurt nursed by the no-nonsense Administrator widely credited with ushering radical and ground-breaking changes in the governance and pushing big-ticket projects to turn Chandigarh into a catalyst of futuristic growth in the region while ensuring inclusive growth entailing the underprivileged classes.
While going ballistic against Bansal, his long-time bete noire, Gene Rodrigues singled out senior IAS officer Mehra, slamming him as a “ mole and incompetent” . He accused Mehra of “ hobnobbing” with his friends and contacts in the Union Home Ministry and the Central Vigilance Commission to get “me out of the way”.
Significantly, Gen Rodrigues disapproved the Home Ministry’s reported move to divest the Punjab Governor of the additional charge as Administrator of Chandigarh and instead put in place the Chief Commissioner under its direct control. “ This will be disastrous” he said. The issue has already assumed political overtones with the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal stridently opposing the reversion to the pre-1984 Chief Commissioner system, asserting that this would dilute Punjab’s long standing claim on Chandigarh.