The CBI has accepted the Uttarakhand government’s request to investigate an alleged multi-crore highway scam after months of tussle between the state and the Centre. A preliminary report submitted on the alleged scam by former Kumaon commissioner D. Senthil Pandiyan had spotted 18 instances when inflated compensation was supposedly paid for the acquisition of land for the widening of NH-74 in Udham Singh Nagar district.
In March, Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat had sought a CBI probe. However, in a letter dated April 5, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari had warned the Chief Minister that a CBI investigation would have an adverse impact on the morale of the officials of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
On May 26, NHAI chairman Y S Malik wrote to Uttarakhand Chief Secretary S Ramaswamy asking him to get the names of NHAI officials removed from an FIR filed in the Pantnagar police station in this case. Malik mentioned in the letter that the NHAI was a fund disbursing agency and had no role in the alleged scam. The state government did not respond to the latter, following which the NHAI approached the Nainital High Court seeking quashing of the FIR against the NHAI officials. The case is pending.
Pandiyan’s report noted that irregularities of upto Rs 240 crore had been committed in the 18 instances. Rawat later said the findings in Pandiyan’s report were only the tip of the iceberg and more remained to be unearthed. After the state’s inquiry, seven revenue officials were suspended and two arrests made so far. On Wednesday Rawat said: “We had been emphasising that we would get the alleged scam probed by the CBI, but the Opposition (Congress) doubted our intentions…. However, the CBI has now agreed to probe the alleged scam for irregularities.”
He added: “The CBI probe will begin very soon and massive corruption will be uncovered.”