It could be called the great Bangalore robbery. Over the last five years several crores of rupees meant for improving facilities in the city have been systematically siphoned off from the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) by a nexus of engineers, councilors and legislators.
Between 2008 and 2011, during the tenure of the BJP in Karnataka, Rs 1,539-crore worth of civic work was allocated to three MLA constituencies in Bangalore — Gandhinagar, Malleswaram and Rajarajeshwarinagar. Investigations subsequently revealed a huge scam where projects reported on paper and paid for by the BBMP had not translated into work on the ground.
A change of government in 2013, to the Congress, did not stop the scam. Based on prima facie findings of “large scale irregularity, fabrication of documents, defalcation of funds” in the three constituencies, a large-scale probe is currently being conducted by the CID.
So far, 56 chargesheets have been filed against engineers and contractors in 81 cases of dubious civic works. On February 23, the Karnataka High Court refused to intervene on pleas by many BBMP engineers and contractors to stop the CID probe against them.
On December 17, 2014, based on a tip-off by the police unit attached to it, the Karnataka Lok Ayukta had raided a private house in Vyalikaval in central Bangalore and found around 853 BBMP files stacked there and three BBMP officials- executive engineer Idaya Vendon, assistant engineer Vishwas and first-division assistant Shylaja- working on the files.
The house was registered in the name of the wife of a powerful BBMP contractor-turned-councillor-turned Congress MLA Munirathna Naidu. The house was allegedly being used to create fake bills for Rs 120 crore worth of civic works granted to the nine civic wards in Congress MLA’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituency.
“The bills were being created by officials at the behest of the MLA, when no actual work had even started,” says a BJP leader in the city council, N R Ramesh.
On January 27, within days of the Lok Ayukta police raid on MLA Munirathna’s Vyalikaval house, the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government had transferred out the Lok Ayukta SP, B A Mahesh. The transfer was seen as a sign of the clout of Munirathna.
“From being a rowdy who was kicked around by the Bangalore police, he is now kicking policemen around,” police sources said. Munirathna was incidentally associated with a June 2010 BBMP wall collapse in central Bangalore that had led to the death of a 17-year-old college girl. He is a film producer as well as an investor in the media.
The one common factor according to police sources between the 2008-11 scam and the recent scam allegedly perpetrated by the Congress MLA from Bangalore is BBMP executive engineer Idaya Vendon, who has been chargesheeted in the 2008-11 scam.
Following the Lok Ayukta raids, Vendon and the other BBMP officials found at the private house with official files have been placed under suspension. The BJP, which controls the BBMP council, has demanded a CBI probe into the affair.
“Let the CBI probe the works in not just my constituency but civic work in 27 MLA constituencies in Bangalore and the 198 wards of the BBMP since 2007. Why did the BJP not make a similar demand when the Rs 1539 crore fake bill scam surfaced in their tenure in 2011?” says Munirathna.