The Budget session of the Uttarakhand Assembly started on a stormy note Thursday, with the Opposition Congress creating a ruckus over the delay in probing into an alleged scam in the expansion of NH-74.
It is alleged that inflated sums of money were paid as compensation between 2013 and 2016 to a few land owners whose plots were acquired for widening NH-74 in Udham Singh Nagar district.
On March 25, acting on a preliminary report by former Kumaon Commissioner D Senthil Pandiyan into the alleged irregularities, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat sought a CBI probe into the matter. The same day, the state government suspended seven revenue officials from Udham Singh Nagar district in connection with the alleged scam.
Soon after, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari wrote to Rawat, warning that a CBI probe would have an adverse impact on the morale of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officers.
On June 1, the state government removed Pandiyan as Kumaon Commissioner.
Questioning the state government’s intention behind Pandiyan’s removal, the Congress on Thursday asked the government its decision regarding the CBI probe. Alleging that the Centre was shielding NHAI officials, Leader of Opposition Indira Hridayesh said, “Gadkariji’s letter asking the state to reconsider its demand for a CBI probe is an assault on the country’s federal structure.”
In response, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prakash Pant said the state government has already sought a CBI probe. “Now it is for the CBI to decide when, and whether, it will probe the matter,” Pant said.
Alleged irregularities of up to Rs 240 crore were mentioned in Pandiyan’s preliminary report. However, the Congress said it was only the “tip of the iceberg” and if probed, the matter would turn out to be a bigger scam.