Environment issues ignored in Gomti River Front project; vigilance or CBI probe likely
UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath had constituted a judicial committee to look into irregularities in the Rs 1,503-crore project when it was found that only 60% work had been carried out despite an expenditure of Rs 1,435 crorelucknow Updated: May 29, 2017 12:33 IST
A CBI or vigilance department probe may be the only option before the state government as a panel begins examining the judicial committee report that indicted two IAS officers and others for implementation of Gomti River Front project without looking into environmental aspects properly.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath had constituted a judicial committee to look into irregularities in the Rs 1,503-crore dream project of the Akhilesh Yadav government after it was found that only 60 per cent work had been carried out despite an expenditure of Rs 1,435 crore (95% of project cost).
The three-member committee, headed by retired high court judge AK Singh with IIM professor AK Garg and BHU’s retired professor UK Chaudhary as members, submitted its report early this month.
To examine the report and recommend action, the government has constituted a four-member committee headed by state minister for urban development Suresh Khanna.
The 80-page inquiry report has reportedly indicted the then chief secretary Alok Ranjan, then principal secretary, irrigation, Deepak Singhal and others for gross irregularities in implementation of the project.
Taking exception to the implementation of the project without appropriate environment clearance, the report said, “As per the wishes of Mr Chaudhary (member, inquiry committee), the discussions held by members on various points (page numbers 58-68) show that the project was neither examined on environment point nor any such examination was carried out despite special orders from the then chief minister (Akhilesh Yadav) through letter dated August 31, 2015.”
“The then executive engineer, superintending engineer, chief engineer, chairman of monitoring committee, principal secretary, irrigation appear to be responsible for gross negligence,” the report added. Ranjan led the monitoring committee constituted to oversee the implementation of the project. According to sources, the inquiry committee has raised serious questions on Ranjan’s role as chairman of the monitoring committee.
Sources said the judicial committee closely examined the documents available with the irrigation department and held all the engineers, including the chief engineer, responsible for the delay in 24 project works.
“Keeping in view the size of the project, a high-level monitoring committee was constituted for the purpose (to check the delay) with the then chief secretary (Alok Ranjan) as chairman and comprising the then principal secretary, irrigation, (Deepak Singhal), chief engineer, head of irrigation department and other engineers as members,” the judicial committee report said.
“The monitoring committee held 23 meetings in two years. But for all these works mentioned in this report, the committee’s chairman and members are prima facie guilty,” the report observed. The inquiry committee has taken note that Ranjan had written to Singhal to act on the CM’s letter and submit a report to him in a week.
The committee has also raised questions on the lack of transparency in tendering process, purchases at higher rates and financial irregularities for not depositing the amount received from auction of sludge. “Only VK Niranjan, the then executive engineer, got the sludge auctioned and deposited Rs 19 lakh,” the committee noted.
Meanwhile, Ranjan said he had not seen the inquiry report and would not like to comment on the issue.
“Such issues – irregularities in tendering process and high rates for purchases – do not come for the chief secretary’s approval. The monitoring committee’s role was to see the implementation of the project as per schedule. Expenditure finance committee (EFC) granted financial approval to the projected which was headed by the then principal secretary, finance (Rahul Bhatnagar), who now holds the office of chief secretary,” he said.
Singhal was not available for his comments.
The inquiry committee has, however, given a clean chit to Bhatnagar in the report. “It (the conclusions) is not about the present chief secretary (Rahul Bhatnagar) and present principal secretary, irrigation, (Suresh Chandra) because very few meetings took place after June 2016 and at that point this work was nearing completion,” the report said.
“Nothing much could have been done in the last phases as the reins were loose since the beginning. They could not have done anything at this stage even if they wanted to,” it added. Sources said the EFC, headed by Bhatnagar, had brought down the cost of project from Rs 1,990 crore to Rs 1,503 crore during a meeting on June 10, 2016.
The EFC had also advised that no financial or administrative sanction be issued for the project without seeking approval from the state cabinet. It asked the irrigation department to seek environmental clearances before going ahead with the implementation of the project.