December 14, 2016 9:35:57 pm
RESPONDING to a report in The Indian Express about a Vigilance probe that red-flagged fraud and corruption in an Arunachal Pradesh hydro project, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju tried to distance himself from his cousin Goboi Rijiju, a sub-contractor for Patel Engineering Limited which is under a cloud for allegedly providing fake transport bills and invoices related to work on building of two dams.
The minister said that Goboi was only a member of his clan, from the same village and so a “distant cousin”. He said that the letter he wrote to the Ministry of Power to release funds to Patel Engineering were only meant to help “poor local people,” working on the project under the aegis of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO).
However, a careful examination of the audio of the conversation between Goboi Rijiju and then NEEPCO Chief Vigilance Officer Satish Verma — who conducted the investigation — reveals more than a “distant relationship” between the minister and the sub-contractor.
In the 29-minute purported conversation in December 2015, Goboi invoked Kiren Rijiju, whom he calls “Bhaiya”, 17 times to push his case for payment to Patel Engineering.
Both have admitted to The Indian Express that they are cousins. Verma attached the audio clip to his report.
The people whom the Minister claims to be “daily wagers” for whom he wrote a letter for payment of their dues worth “a few thousand of rupees” are actually contractors who have anywhere between Rs 30 lakh to Rs 1 crore pending with Patel Engineering, according to Goboi Rijiju.
Among the people who have signed the September 2015 petition to Rijiju — following which he wrote a letter to the Power Ministry in November 2015 to release funds — is Anil Hagam. Kiren Rijiju, in his interviews Tuesday, identified them as members of gram panchayat. Anil Hagam’s name, however, figures in the report prepared by CVO Satish Verma as one of the key sub-contractors along with Goboi Rijiju.
I am brother of Kiren Rijiju
Goboi Rijiju: Sir, main Goboi Rijiju sir. Main Kiren Rijiju ka bhai sir. (Sir, I am Goboi Rijiju, brother of Kiren Rijiju.)
Later, while discussing why Patel Engineering is not paying sub-contractors, Verma explains that only 20% of two-month payment has been withheld and Patel should pay the local people as pending payments are not more than Rs 1 crore. To this Goboi Rijiju says: Lekin Patel jo sub contractor ko payment kar raha hai sir wahan ek aadmi ka 30 lakh, 50 lakh se ek crore tak baaki hai. (But every person has anywhere between Rs 30 lakh to Rs 1 crore pending with Patel.)
Consider some of the key excerpts where Goboi Rijiju invokes Kiren Rijiju as “Bhaiya”:
How the system works
Goboi Rijiju: Local aadmi ko wahan pe bahut problem ho raha hai sir. NEEPCO payment nahi kar raha hai boulder supply ka. Sir, wahan pe jo teen gaon hain, teen tribe hai Buhum, Aka, Biji. Ye teen ne boulder supply kiya sir. Kiren bhaiya ne bol ke, Patel ko bola ki aap thoda engage kar do…To isiliye beech mein wahan local log ne kaam band karaya tha. 15 din 20 din tak kaam band karaya sir. Uske baad ye sab ladka log, local people Dilli gaya aur bhaiya se request kiya ki humlog ko bill nahi mil raha hai to humne project band kar diya. To bhaiya ne bola ki nahi project band mat kyunki ye 2017, 2016 last ko commission karna hai. To jo hi problem hai hum bol dega. To uske baad kaam khula sir. Beech mein band tha.
(Local people are facing problem there. NEEPCO is not making payments. There are three tribes there which supplied boulders. They had requested Kiren Bhaiya to persuade Patel to engage them in the dam work. But because of non-payment of dues, people had stopped work for 15-20 days. Then the local people went to Delhi and requested Bhaiya for release of payment and informed that they had stopped work. Bhaiya told them not to stop work and that he would sort it out. Then the work started.)
Verma says he had met local people and explained to them that Patel had been paid until May 2015 and only about 20% of the June and July payment was withheld and so there was no reason why Patel should not pay sub-contractors. He also says that sub-contractors told him that they are paid only Rs 20 per km per cubic meter while Patel charges Rs 60 per km per cubic meter from NEEPCO.
To this, Goboi Rijiju says: Sir jaise wahan pe gram Panchayat hai, ASM hai, wo sab system alag alag bandh ke rakha hua hai. Aur practical mein jo aadmi gaadi jo lagata hai usko alag dete hain. Aisa kar ke system bana hua hai sir. Actually jo 20 nahi 22 rupay hai na wo jo gaadi jo lagata hai usko milta hai. Jo ASM hai aur jo Gram Panchayat hai usko alag se. (Sir, there is Gram Panchayat and ASM. There is a system established for them. In practice, the transporter is paid separately. He gets only Rs 20-22. Rest is given to ASM and Gram Panchayat.)
Verma: Wo log to transportation karta nahi hai. Usko kaahe ka paisa dete hain. (But they don’t transport the boulders. Why pay them?)
Goboi: Sir, aisa ki wahan pe to koi kaam karta nahi hai. Koi kaam milta nahi hai sir. Abhi mera wahan ka jagah hai. Humlog ko kaam chahiye aisa bhaiya ko bol ke log approach karte hain ki humlog ko kuch kaam nahi hai aap kaise bhi kar ke Patel ko kaam dilaiye. Actually pehle to Patel khud karta tha sir. Baad mein teen tribe ja ke bhaiya ko request kiya. Ki humlog ko to kaam nahi hai aap kaise bhe Patel ko bol ke boulder supply humlog ko dila dijiye. Nahi to Patel nahi de raha tha.
(Sir, nobody works there. There is no work. I have a place there. We tell bhaiya that we need work and that he should do something to get Patel the work. Earlier Patel used to do the work itself. Later three tribes requested bhaiya to persuade Patel to give the work of boulder transportation to local people. Otherwise Patel would not give the work to us.)
Goboi offers help in Verma’s promotion through Bhaiya
Goboi: Hum to suna hai aapka promotion bhi hone wala hai. (I have heard you are being promoted.)
Verma: Pata nahi. Promotion ho raha hai mera? (I dont know. Is it so?)
Goboi: Ho raha hai bola sir. To aap mere bhaiya ke layak kuch hone se aap boliye sir. Kuch bhi sir, aap humko boliye. Bhaiya ka koi bhi help chahiye sir. (Yes sir, it’s happening. Anything worthy of Bhaiya, you tell me sir. Anything sir, you tell me. Any help you need from Bhaiya.)
Verma: Thank you. You are from a very respected family, prominent family.
Goboi: Humko khabar mila. Progress hai bohot achcha baat hai. Bhaiya ka kuch help chahiye to, jo uska possible hoga … humko boliye sir, jo possible hoga wo hum koshish karega… (I have learnt there is progress. If you need Bhaiya’s help you tell me sir, Whatever is possible, I will try.)
Verma: Thank you so much.
When Verma insists on verification of bills
Goboi: To hum udhar bhi pressure dega jaldi karne ke liye. Mera number aap le lijiye. Bhaiya ke layak koi bhi kaam ho to aap humko boliye. Bhaiya se mila ki nahi mila? (Then, I will put pressure there as well. You take my number. Anything that Bhaiya can do for you, you let me know. Have you met Bhaiya?)
Verma: Nahi main nahi mila. Maine TV pe dekha hai. (No. I have seen him on TV.)
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