CBI inquiry in Uttarakhand land acquisition scam opposed

₹240 crore were siphoned off in Uttarakhand by claiming higher compensation for land acquired for highways. But, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari is opposed to a CBI inquiry

Photo by Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images
Photo by Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

So, police and CBI inquiries do discourage and demoralise ‘project implementing agencies’. In a letter to the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari (a copy of which is with National Herald) says that “such action would have an adverse impact on the morale of officers and would impede the execution of work.”

“In this background, we would like to re-examine the usefulness (of) taking up more projects in the state (by the National Highways Authority of India),” Gadkari’s letter went on to add.

Uttarakhand Government had sought a CBI inquiry in March and alleged a ₹240 crore ‘scam’ or irregularilities involved in the acquisition of farmland for the proposed NH-74 in Udham Singh Nagar district.

The chief minister had claimed that only 18 cases had been identified in which farmland was shown as non-agricultural land to increase the land compensation amount by 20 times to benefit ‘chosen stakeholders and beneficiaries’. While ₹240 crore had been allegedly siphoned off in just 18 cases, the actual amount was likely to be much higher, the CM had stated.

But after receiving Gadkari’s letter and a meeting with the Union minister in New Delhi on Thursday, Rawat declared that his government would seek legal opinion before hastening to add that his government had zero tolerance on corruption.

The NHAI chief apparently complained that after the Udham Singh Nagar police lodged an FIR, several key officials were being repeatedly summoned to join the inquiry, following which several of them had left the district (It is not clear how they could have done it without permission by the headquarters).

“I am certain that you will appreciate the significance of the issues that I have pointed out,” Gadkari says in the concluding paragraph, before asking Rawat to “take immediate corrective measures to resolve the impasse.”

The Union minister likes to see himself as a ‘go-getter’ and boasted on Thursday that he believed in ‘bulldozing roadblocks’ while awarding work contracts and getting jobs done.

Gadkari didn’t hide his obsession with the pace of laying roads and went on to claim a world record of sorts his ministry has achieved after awarding contracts for building 16,800 km of highways this year. But, is he now oblivious to environmental clearances and other legal procedures?

Curiously, NHAI claims that it was not involved in the irregularities because its role was confined to disbursing the compensation.

The Union minister’s disapproval was clear in the tone and tenor of the letter, which left nothing to imagination : “First an FIR was launched by the district administration of Udham Singh Nagar in the matter of awards finalised by CALA (Competent Authority Land Acquisition), who is revenue functionary of the State Government. Not only that, a CBI inquiry has also been ordered by the Government of Uttrakhand in the matter in which NHAI officers are being investigated.”

The letter also reads that ministry of road transport and highways has taken up upgradation and expansion of national highways network in a big way. “We have also paid special attention to road connectivity projects in Uttrakhand especially Char Dham.”

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