Updated: December 13, 2016 9:07:55 pm
In what appears to be an alleged case of corruption, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju; his cousin, a contractor in Arunachal Pradesh, Goboi Rijiju; and several top officials of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), including its Chairman and Managing Director, have been named in a 129-page report by the PSU’s Chief Vigilance Officer that alleges corruption in the construction of two dams for 600 MW Kameng Hydro Electric Project, one of the biggest hydro-electric projects in Arunachal Pradesh.
The report by CVO Satish Verma, sent to the CBI, CVC and the Ministry of Power in July this year, alleges an ‘elaborate conspiracy’ involving contractors, NEEPCO officials and the West Kameng district administration to defraud NEEPCO and the government of funds that “may extend up to Rs 450 crore.” West Kameng, the site of the project, falls in Arunachal West, the Minister’s parliamentary constituency.
READ ORIGINAL STORY: Vigilance probe red-flags fraud and corruption in Arunachal hydro project
Rijiju on Tuesday rejected the allegations. He said those ‘who plant such news’ will get beaten up with slippers if they come to Arunachal Pradesh, his home state. When asked for a reaction the Indian Express story, Rijiju said, “Who has planted this news? To help your own people is corruption? Those who are planting such news, if they come there (to Arunachal), they will be beaten with slippers. Is helping people corruption?” adding that “this news is nothing but a mischief.”
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Records with The Indian Express show that on November 4, 2015, MoS Kiren Rijiju wrote a letter to Ministry of Power to release funds to the contractor and his cousin Goboi Rijiju went to meet Verma. Goboi Rijiju is one of the sub-contractors in the project. Verma’s report also has the audio CD of a purported conversation he had with Goboi Rijiju on December 29, 2015, in which the latter is heard pushing the officer to clear the payments and offering “any help you need from Bhaiya (the Minister).”
When asked about his letter and his cousin approaching the CVO the minister told The Indian Express: “I did write a letter to Ministry of Power to release funds to Patel Engineering (the contractor). But it was on the basis of a petition I had received from local contractors of the area. I had no idea it involved a scam. If it is a scam, it must be probed and those responsible must be punished. I am totally against corruption.”
Meanwhile, the opposition left no stone unturned in attacking the BJP leader. The Congress party played an audio clip at a press conference in New Delhi that purportedly links Rijiju to the alleged fraud in the hydro-electric power project. “Kiren Rijiju’s role in this issue is under a cloud of suspicion. So he should be sacked or asked to resign till probe is complete,” said the Congress.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too demanded that Rijiju be sacked for “trying to sweep under the carpet” the alleged Rs 450-crore power scam in his home state. While addressing a press conference, party leader Ashish Khetan said Rijiju not only wrote a letter to Power Minister Piyush Goyal to release funds of contractors in state-run North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO) project, but also “hid the fact that his brother was a sub-contractor in it”.
Khetan likened the modus operandi of the alleged fraud to the more than Rs 9 billion fodder scam in Bihar. “The minister tried to sweep the matter under carpet. The officer was also pressurised to soften the report. The contractor brother also tried to influence the probe using the minister’s name. Rijiju should immediately be sacked and the Prime Minister should set up a high level probe to investigate the matter,” Khetan added.
Amid all the allegations, BJP came to Rijiju’s rescue rejecting the graft charges against him as “baseless”. The party said Congress was trying to blame the Union Minister for its “sins” as it was in power at the Centre as well as in Arunachal Pradesh when the project under question was sanctioned. In the meantime, Shrikant Sharma, BJP’s National Secretary, also insisted that the contractor, who is at the centre of allegations, is not Rijiju’s cousin as alleged. “It is a completely baseless charge. Congress and its friends have hatched a conspiracy to target BJP as they have not been able to find a single case of corruption against our government. The said project was sanctioned in 2005 when Congress was in power at the Centre as well as in the state,” he said.
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