RJD leader Lalu Prasad’s family is at the centre of a row over allegations that the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park or Patna zoo, which is under the charge of his minister-son Tej Pratap Yadav, awarded a Rs 90-lakh contract for earth-filling work and construction of pathways to a company that ferried soil from a proposed mall site owned by a firm in which the minister, his siblings and mother are shareholders.
Under fire from the Opposition BJP which called it “conflict of interest” and demanded that the Nitish Kumar government order a probe, Lalu Prasad said, “We are ready for any kind of investigation. We offer free dung to Patna zoo.”
Mrityunjay Tiwari, RJD spokesperson, said Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav had clarified that the contract was worth Rs 44 lakh and not Rs 90 lakh. Tiwari said it was awarded for “soil purchase” and that all norms had been “duly complied with”.
When his comments were sought on allegations that contract was awarded without floating a tender and that soil was transported to the zoo in trucks at night, JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said: “We believe that the Patna zoo authority should have followed contract norms and should have ensured that animals were not disturbed by the movement of trucks at night.”
The “soil purchase” relates to earth excavated from a two-acre plot, along the busy Bailey Road in Danapur, owned by Delight Marketing Co Pvt Limited which contracted Meridian Construction (India) Limited, owned by RJD’s Sursand MLA Syed Abu Dojama, to build a shopping mall at the site.
According to records of the Registrar of Companies, Delight Marketing Co Pvt Limited, a Delhi-based company incorporated on June 10, 1981, had Tejashwi Prasad, Tej Pratap and Chanda Yadav as its directors since 2014. In August 2016, Ragini, their sister, was also inducted on the board.
RoC records show that Delight Marketing changed names twice recently — it became Lara Projects Private Limited on November 2, 2016 and then became a limited liability partnership firm, Lara Projects LLP, on February 14, 2017. According to RoC documents, Lalu Prasad’s wife Rabri Devi and sons Tejashwi and Tej Pratap are shareholders in the partnership firm.
It is alleged that the soil excavated from the proposed mall site was lifted by MS Enterprise, owned by one Virendra Yadav of Rupaspur in Danapur, which was awarded the soil contract from Patna zoo on the basis of quotations — no tender was floated for the purchase. The zoo, which is under Tej Pratap’s charge, ordered for soil since authorities decided to extend its walkways.
Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park Director Nand Kishore confirmed the award of contract to MS Enterprise but said he had no idea where the soil came from.
In remarks contradicting what the zoo director and RJD spokesperson said, RJD MLA Syed Abu Dojana, who owns Meridian Construction that is building the mall, told The Indian Express: “No soil was lifted from our site. In fact, we need extra soil worth Rs 3-4 crore to fill the plot. I do not know who or what this MS Enterprise is. There is no question of us asking any company to lift soil from our site. We have embarked on a big project, we do not know who is spreading this canard.”
BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi accused minister Tej Pratap Yadav of conflict of interest: “Can a minister get into profit engagement with his own department? Did Patna zoo need soil in the first place? Making extended pathways shows how zoo authorities are trying to justify the purchase. It is time the Chief Minister intervened and ordered a probe. Will the CM dismiss his environment and forest minister?”
Phone calls and text messages to Tejashwi’s publicity manager Sanjay Yadav for comments on Delight Marketing Co Pvt Limited changing names remained unanswered.
In his 2015 election affidavit, Tejashwi had declared two Danapur plots — both are of much smaller size than the land on which the mall is being built. Tejashwi made no mention of his association with Delight Marketing Co Pvt Limited and had shown the value of his self-acquired total assets as Rs 91,52,000. Tej Pratap too made no mention of Delight Marketing Co Pvt Limited in his affidavit.