Centre not keen on CBI probe into NH-74 scam in Uttarakhand
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Centre not keen on CBI probe into NH-74 scam in Uttarakhand

Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari writes to CM, says investigation would demoralise NH officials

dehradun Updated: May 23, 2017 18:54 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times
NH-74 scam,Nitin Gadkari,Trivendra Singh Rawat
Chief minister Trivendra Rawat had said the scam may be worth ₹500 crore. (HT PHOTO)

DEHRADUN: The BJP government at the Centre is not keen on Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) taking up an inquiry into the alleged ₹300-crore NH-74 land scam in Uttarakhand as recommended by the party government in the hill state. Such an investigation would have a “demoralizing” effect on the national highway authority of India officials, Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari has told chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat.

A week after taking charge as CM, Rawat wrote to Centre demanding a CBI probe into alleged irregularities worth hundreds of crores detected in the acquisition of farmland for widening of the NH-74 between 2011 and 2016 in Udham Singh Nagar district. He also suspended six sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) level officials. The alleged scam had been one of the key issues that the BJP had raised in the run up to the state assembly polls in February.

Rawat confirmed Tuesday that he has received a letter from Gadkari expressing concern over the CBI probe into the alleged scam.

“We are in receipt of the letter… He (Gadkari) has written to us that it (a CBI probe, if allowed) would affect the morale of the national highway officials,” Rawat said.

“It is up to the CBI,” he said to a query on whether the Centre would permit an inquiry by the central investigating agency.

“In the letter, he (Gadkari) has clarified that there is no case against the NH officials”, Rawat said, adding the Union minister further said that whatever the NH officials did was in accordance with what the revenue officials asked them to do. “This (CBI probe) will (therefore) affect their (NH officials’) morale,” Rawat quoted Gadkari as having stated in his letter.

The CM also justified Gadkari’s stand saying the NHAI was merely a funding agency.

Opposition Congress, however, accused the state government of stonewalling the probe to protect some of the ruling party’s leaders. “It’s a rollback government…It rolls back every decision that it takes. Its talk of zero tolerance on corruption is a drama,” senior Congress leader Surendra Kumar said.

The Congress leader alleged that the Rawat government was also vacillating on its liquor policy. “Else, it wouldn’t have taken the decision to categorise national highways as district roads after the Supreme Court ordered it to shift liquor shops (from the national highways),” Kumar said.

Gadkari’s letter comes days after chief minister reiterated that “scams that took place during the previous Congress government” would be probed. “There is no political motive behind our decision to go against corruption. If any politician is found to be involved in corruption in the past, law will take its own course,” he had said.

Rawat had earlier clarified that the CBI probe was recommended after an inquiry by the Kumaon commissioner indicted seven officials (6 SDM-rank and a retired) in the scam. “During the inquiry it was found that the monetary compensation of about ₹300 crore that was supposed to be paid to farmers whose land was acquired for construction of the NH-74 never reached them,” Rawat had said. He had also expressed the possibility that scam figure could go even higher -- up to ₹500 crore.

First Published: May 23, 2017 18:54 IST