Gujarat: ‘Clean chit’ to then Modi govt on most allegations, no opinion on others

The commission was an outcome of the Congress’s sustained demand to have corruption charges against the then Modi government investigated.

By: Express News Service | Gandhinagar | Published:April 1, 2017 5:58 am

The Gujarat government on Friday tabled the report of controversial Justice M B Shah Commission, which was constituted by the then Narendra Modi-led government in August 2011, in the Assembly, after days of demands from the Opposition Congress.

The commission was an outcome of the Congress’s sustained demand to have corruption charges against the then Modi government investigated. However, the government had not tabled the report which was submitted to it in 2013.

The commission gave a “clean chit” to the then Gujarat government on a majority of the 15 allegations of corruption and giving undue favours to industries, while not opining on the others, arguing the matters were either sub judice or subjects under committees of the Assembly.

Congress MLAs, who had dressed in aprons with messages seeking an apology from BJP national president Amit Shah on Thursday, were stumped when Deputy CM Nitin Patel announced tabling of the Shah commission report in the Assembly. At this moment, both their top leaders, Shankersinh Vaghela and Shaktisinh Gohil were absent from the House.

The two-part report is running into 20 volumes. After tabling the report, Nitin Patel said, “We have tabled the report today. As we said earlier, the commission has said that all the allegations against the government are baseless. We have nothing to hide.” Patel also released a translated gist of the Commission’s report.

The commission was formed by the Gujarat government after Congress leaders Arjun Modhwadia and the then Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Shaktisinh Gohil submitted a memorandum to the then President Pratibha Patil. In the said representation, the two leaders had made 17 allegations against Modi-led Gujarat government. The Shah commission was formed to probe into 15 of the allegations. Justice Shah also headed the SIT to curb black money in the economy.

The Commission had submitted its interim report in 2012 and the final report in 2013.

The allegations in the memorandum were mainly related to land allotments and special packages given to various industries in the state by overlooking rules or norms, such as not following public auction process and giving land at throwaway prices, to favour industrialists of choice, and thus causing loss to the state exchequer in billions.

Some of the major projects on which the allegations were made included Nano project of Tata Motors Limited, giving gauchar land to Mundra Port and Mundra SEZ of Adani group at token rates, illegal allotment of forest land and land falling under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) to Essar group, giving land in Kutch district to Archean Chemicals (allegedly associated with the then BJP president Venkaiah Naidu) to set up a salt chemical plant at cheap rates and giving huge land parcel of Hajira in Surat at prime location to L&T at low rates.

The allegations of corruption were also made in government projects like Sujalam Suflam irrigation project and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation’s (GSPC’s) deal with Geo Global on gas exploration in KG Basin. The Congress leaders had also levelled allegations against Modi for using luxurious private planes of industrial houses.

The commission has called majority of the allegations as baseless and the government’s decisions on them in consonance with government policies.

On Tata Nano project, the report said, “Public interest, particularly for the state of Gujarat, was a paramount consideration for inviting Tata to establish Nano project and automotive hub in the state of Gujarat. The said policy decision was taken in conformity with the central government policy of establishing automotive industry…There is no substance in the allegations that Tata Motors Limited was favoured in anyway as contended.”

It also said that the project was given benefits by the Gujarat government as per the policy of the Central government to promote automobile industry for years between 2006-2016.

The commission said that earlier also benefits were given to General Motors in a special case. It added that due to Tata Nano project, automobile related ancillary industries have developed a lot in the state. The government was facing allegations that it gave financial relief of Rs 33,000 crore to Tata Motors to relocate its Nano plant in Sanand.

On giving gauchar land to Adani group in Mundra, the panel said that by calling establishment of an SEZ as a “public purpose” the Supreme Court and the High Court have given a right to the state government to give gauchar land for this purpose. It called the allegations on the land allotment as not acceptable.

On the allegation of giving forest and CRZ land to Essar Group in Hajira, the commission said the land in question was 500 metre far from the coastline. The panel also stated that the land in question was allotted way back in 1983 by the then Congress chief minister.

“If the Congress chief minister is conveyed the allegations made by his own party on the land allotment, he will surely be shocked,” said Nitin Patel in a press conference.

Congress leaders had alleged that the Gujarat government gave huge land to a company associated with Venkaiah Naidu to get political benefit. However, the commission said that looking at the documents of the company, neither Naidu nor his direct descendants are director or partner in the company.

The commission, however, refrained from going into the details on some allegations citing their subjudice nature or those being subject matters of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) or Public Undertaking Committee (PUC) of the Assembly.

The commission said that it did not find it fit to discuss allegations on the GSPC oil exploration project since the allegations have to be looked into first by PAC-PUC and then by the Gujarat Assembly in the wake of judicial decisions in that regard by the Supreme Court. Similarly, it refrained from giving opinion on allegations of corruption in the Sujalam Suflam Scheme in which the CAG had reportedly pointed out financial irregularities.

Shah report ‘highly misguiding’: Congress

Reacting to the M B Shah Commission’s report, Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said that the state government must have made changes in the report, otherwise it would not have waited for so long to table the report in the Assembly.

“Also, I have seen all the volumes of the report. The commission has not given the government clean chit, it has cited technicalities.” Former Congress president Arjun Modhwadia termed the report as “highly misguiding’’ . Alleging the Shah commission was nothing but “Modi Bachao’’ inquiry commission, he said Congress would get it re-investigated if the party came to power.

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