In a new twist to the controversy over the inclusion of names of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal in the foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor laid at Dera Baba Nanak, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has said that it has no information regarding the issue.
The NHAI said this in reply to an RTI application filed by The Indian Express asking for details of the correspondence of NHAI with the Punjab government over the event held at Dera Baba Nanak on November 26, 2018. The NHAI had also been asked to reveal the name of the official who had cleared the names to be included in the foundation stone to be laid for the Kartarpur Corridor.
The RTI had also asked for a copy of all correspondence of NHAI with Punjab government, Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and any other concerned ministry or office regarding the names to be included in the foundation stone. While the information asked for was not provided within the stipulated time by the NHAI, but when an appeal was filed, the NHAI responded on January 30 by saying that the “requested information (sic) are not available with this office”.
Punjab Minister for Cooperation and Jails, Sukhjinder Randhawa, who is also the Dera Baba Nanak MLA, and who had raised severe objection over the inclusion of the names of Badals despite them not holding any official position, told The Indian Express that it was shocking that the NHAI was feigning ignorance over the matter. The foundation stone was arranged by the NHAI and it is inexplicable that the organisation does not know anything related to it, he said.
“I had also filed an RTI query with the NHAI demanding to know details about the event held on November 26 and who cleared the names of Badals to be put on the foundation stone. However, I have not received any reply till date. The NHAI must come clean and inform who’s idea it was to put the names on the foundation stone as also where it lies now because it has been removed from the place where it was originally placed,” he said.
When asked about the letter he had written to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) about the inclusion of names, Randhawa said that he had not received any reply from the CMO too. “I am yet to receive any reply to the letter I wrote regarding who gave the approval for the names from the CMO,” he said. In his letter, Randhawa had pointed out that he had been told by certain NHAI officials that the approval for inclusion of names had been given by an official in the CMO.
The minister said that it was an affront to the position of the Vice President of India that no information had been provided regarding the foundation stone that he had laid for an international corridor. “After all public money was spent on the programme and also the foundation stone. How can it be claimed that no information is available,” he said, adding that it was also disconcerting that his RTI query, filed as a Minister of Punjab government, had not even been replied to.
A huge controversy had broken out over the names of Badals being included in the foundation stone and Randhawa had put black tape on their names protesting that since they did not hold any public office at the time of the ceremony their names could not have been included. The foundation stone was laid by the Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu, in the presence of Union Minister for Roads, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Badal and Union Minister of State Vijay Sampla along with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines