Noida and Yadav Singh have grown together. The city will continue to burgeon, but it could be curtains for its former chief engineer who now has to explain unexplained riches.
Few questions were asked during the 34 years Singh reigned in New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (Noida). His track record, however, shows he came out unscathed when a few irritants cropped up.
Singh’s journey with Noida Authority began in 1980, when he joined the body as a junior engineer. He started executing small government projects such as drainage, footpaths and parks in the town, which is today the favoured destination of the migrating middle-class.
In the 1980s, Noida was developing and looking for engineers to deal with big infrastructure projects and deliver on time.
Around the same time, a young Dalit woman from Greater Noida’s Badalpur village, Mayawati, was busy building her political career that would one day see her lead the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Since then, she has ruled Uttar Pradesh — India’s most populous and politically key state by virtue of having 80 Lok Sabha seats — four times, with one full span (2007-2012). Singh’s rise, though away from public gaze, has been no less remarkable.
Old-timers remember Singh as an ambitious engineering diploma holder who won over bosses with work and networking skills. He was extremely driven too, working during the day in Noida and attending Bachelor of Engineering (BE) classes at Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi, in the evening.
“He was a hero for his Agra-based family. Since he wanted to rise in life and earn a name for his family, he completed his BE in 1995, Master of Engineering in 2003 and PhD in 2012-13,” said one of his relatives who requested not to be named.
Singh, also born in a Dalit family, became a senior project engineer in Noida Authority in 1995 and started dealing with bigger public projects. When Mayawati became UP chief minister in 2002, Singh was appointed as the chief project engineer (CPE) for the first time. According to the UP government, the CME post is equivalent to chief engineer level-2.
“A chief engineer is responsible for public projects such as construction of government buildings, roads, bridges, underpasses, footpaths, parks, schools, hospitals and flyovers among others. A chief engineer also takes care of maintenance work of public infrastructure. He has got power to approve projects up to worth Rs 1 crore,” said an official who did not want to be named.
Noida chief engineer plans projects but each work has to get approval from the Noida chief executive officer because all the powers are vested in him as per the Industrial Act-1976.
On November 27, Singh found his world going topsy-turvy. The income tax department claimed it had found unaccounted assets in the residence and offices that belonged to Singh and his wife Kusumlata.
A team of around 100 officials conducted search operations at 20 buildings connected to Singh and his wife in Noida, Ghaziabad and Delhi.
The taxmen found Rs 12 lakh from Singh’s house in sector 51. But the eye-popping catch was the taxmen detecting Rs 10 crore in the car of Ashwini Kumar, who is suspected of having business ties to Kusumlata. What raised eyebrows was Kumar was not a known name in Noida’s business circles.
Additionally, there are 20 lockers belonging to Singh and associates waiting to be opened.
“We will open 20 lockers and find out what is lying there. We are yet to reach any conclusion. It will be premature to comment on this issue because our probe is on. We have not yet opened the diary or any other paper that we found in searches,” said AK Tripathi director general (DG), income tax department, UP.
The I-T team is also looking into two firms, Mamta Creations and Meenu Creations, owned by Kusumlata that are suspected of being involved in managing unaccounted money.
An I-T official who requested anonymity said, “We have found that Singh has invested in 35 fake companies. The addresses have been shown in Kolkata. We are yet to substantiate how he has invested the money.”
The I-T search on Singh came on a complaint. “The complainant also alleged Singh got 5% as commission on each contract he awarded. Singh purchased plots at a lower rate and sold them at a much higher rate to earn profit using his influence,” the official said.
When the BSP came back into power in 2007, Singh was again made engineer-in-chief with the Noida Authority.
When the Samajwadi Party came to power in 2012, it lodged an FIR against Singh over alleged irregularities in execution of an Rs 954 crore underground cable laying project on one of the city’s main roads.
Subsequently, the SP government removed him. State agencies, however, failed to find any wrongdoing by Singh. He got a clean chit in 2013 and began his comeback.
The SP government appointed him as engineer-in-chief again six months ago. Finally, in November, the SP government appointed Singh as engineer-in-chief of all three authorities — Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway.
He became the first official to be appointed engineer-in-chief of all three authorities.
The three developing industrial hubs have approved funds of around Rs 20,000 crore for current financial year.