Congress leader alleges 'big scam' in Uttarakhand horticulture dept

Congress MLA Yashpal Arya says Uttarakhand HC had ordered CBI probe into alleged scam, but state government went to Supreme Court

Former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat and other Congress leaders at a protest near the Assembly in Dehradun (photo: PTI)
Former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat and other Congress leaders at a protest near the Assembly in Dehradun (photo: PTI)


The Opposition Congress on Wednesday attacked the Uttarakhand government over corruption, accusing it of being hand-in-glove with the "mafia", and saying graft is at its peak in several departments.

Initiating a debate on corruption in the Assembly, leader of Opposition Yashpal Arya spoke of a "big scam in the horticulture department", and claimed that Rs 70 crore had been spent on the "pretext" of planting 15 lakh saplings.

Everything was done on paper and nothing on the ground, he alleged. Only a few hundred saplings were planted, while payments in crores were made to "chosen nurseries", Arya claimed.

The Congress MLA also claimed that the scam was executed by an official who had been blacklisted in Himachal Pradesh, but the Uttarakhand government brought him in despite knowing his background, leading to corruption.

Uttarakhand High Court had taken cognisance of the matter and ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the alleged irregularities in the horticulture department, but the state government went to the Supreme Court as it did not want a CBI investigation, the Bajpur MLA said.

"Total jungle raj is prevailing (in the state). One cannot think of getting anything done without paying a suvidha shulk (commission). The dreams of people who fought for statehood for Uttarakhand have been shattered," Arya said.

He also alleged a major scam in the irrigation department, saying it was executed by a superintending engineer who has the blessings of higher-ups in the government.

Pritam Singh, the Congress MLA from Chakrata, said after assuming power in 2017, the BJP had claimed it would follow a policy of zero-tolerance on corruption and constitute a Lokayukta within 100 days of forming the government. However, nothing has happened on that front, he added.

"The party (BJP) is in power for a second term now. Still, the Lokayukta is nowhere in sight," Singh said. He also claimed that the "liquor mafia" enjoys government protection.

Singh also accused the Uttarakhand government of shying away from CBI investigations in all matters in which it does not want the truth to come out -- be it a scam in the Horticulture department or the murder of resort receptionist Ankita Bhandari.

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