The CPM has demanded a CBI probe into an alleged financial scam at Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA), in which an IAS officer has been arrested by CID, to unearth the larger conspiracy.
Siliguri mayor Ashok Bhattacharya alleged that the state government was trying to shield actual offenders involved in the scam worth Rs 200 crore.
“Money has been siphoned off from SJDA funds in the name of projects which have either not taken off at all or very little work has been done,” Bhattacharya, also the party state committee member and former SJDA chairman told mediapersons on Wednesday.
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Godala Kiran Kumar, a joint secretary in West Bengal Agriculture department, was arrested by CID on July 16 for his alleged role in the purported scam during his stint as CEO of SJDA from 2011 to 2013. He is at present in judicial remand.
“IAS officer G K Kumar was definitely not the only one involved in the scam. Just like in the multi-million Saradha ponzi scam where TMC MP Kunal Ghosh was put behind bars, this time Godala has been made the scapegoat,” Bhattacharya said.
Godala’s earlier arrest by Siliguri police commissionerate in December 2013 in a case related to alleged siphoning of funds in the purchase of CCTV cameras had led to a churning within the state administration following which police commissioner K Jayaraman was transferred and put on compulsory wait list. Godala was granted bail the next day.
Bhattacharya claimed that even though Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had accepted that there were some corrupt practices at the SJDA under the chairmanship of TMC MLA Rudranath Bhattacharya, the new board formed under the chairmanship of North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Deb was no different. “Interestingly, all the accused who were involved in various scams, including Rudranath, were part of the new board.”
The Siliguri Mayor claimed that huge amounts of money had been siphoned off in the name of projects like setting up of electric crematoria, installation of CCTVs and electro-mechanical sewerage systems in Siliguri.
“The misappropriation of funds at the SJDA, as is clear from the technical audit report by a group of experts from Jadavpur University, took place because work amounting to crores of rupees was allotted only through quotation and not by any tendering process by a proper committee. The report also mentioned that it was not possible to make it happen without involvement of the policy makers,” Bhattacharya said.
He also alleged that the state has been deprived of a Rs 1,000-crore project of Ganga River Basin Management plan for comprehensive sewerage projects along Ganges and its tributaries by the Centre, owing to this scam.
The CID, which has been probing the SJDA scam, had filed a chargesheet at the Siliguri Court in which 16 persons have been named including Godala, the former CEO of SJDA. “While Godala and other technical persons have been made scapegoats, no one of the board had been named in the chargesheet, which is strange. The state government will have to explain this. We are not ruling out the possibility that the CM had intervened in the matter and ensured that none of her partymen are named,” Bhattacharya said, adding that the Left’s protest movements demanding CBI probe into the SJDA scam would continue.