Two IAS officers, were, on Tuesday, suspended by the Uttarakhand government over allegations of committing financial irregularities during disbursement of compensation for the land acquired in Udham Singh Nagar district for widening of the National Highway 74 to four lanes.
IAS officers Pankaj Kumar Pandey and Chandresh Yadav were suspended on Tuesday after a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the alleged NH-74 scam found that the two had committed financial irregularities during their respective terms as Udham Singh Nagar district magistrate.
Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat said to the media, “Two IAS officers have been suspended in relation to payment of (high) compensation to individuals whose land was acquired for the widening of NH-74.”
Pandey had served as the district magistrate of Udham Singh Nagar from December 3, 2013 to November 11, 2015, and Yadav had served as the district magistrate between September 22, 2016 and March 23, 2017.
Being district magistrates the two served as arbitrators to decide cases regarding land acquisition and payment of compensation for the NH-74 project.
However, the suspension order issued by the state government on Tuesday mentioned that both officials had faltered in carrying out their duties as arbitrators.
The suspension order mentioned that the two had violated rules by showing “government land as privately-owned land”, by taking “no legal action against illegal land-holders”, and instead “considering the illegal land-holders as beneficiaries, and allowing crore of rupees to be paid to them as compensation for the acquired land”.
Addressing the media, Chief Secretary Utpal Kumar Singh said, “The government and administration is committed to providing corruption-free governance to all residents of the state… In the NH-74 probe the two (suspended) IAS officers were asked for clarification. After reviewing their clarification, we decided to issue suspension orders against Pankaj Pandey who is posted as Secretary in-charge, and Chandresh Yadav who is posted as Additional Secretary.”
Both Yadav and Pandey did not respond to telephone calls from The Indian Express.
Centre had denied CBI probe
On March 20, last year, the then Commissioner of Kumaon, D Senthil Pandiyan, had submitted a preliminary report to the government alleging that financial irregularities of upto Rs 240 crore had been committed in the disbursement of compensation funds for land acquired for the NH-74 project.
Only five days later, on March 25, Chief Minister Rawat had sought a CBI probe into the alleged scam. However, the order for a CBI probe boomeranged on Rawat as, on April 5, last year, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari wrote to Rawat objecting to an inquiry against the NHAI officials. The CBI enquiry would have an “adverse impact on the morale of the officers and would impede the execution of projects”, Gadkari had written in the letter.
Later, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) refused to transfer the probe to CBI.
In the absence of the CBI probe, the SIT has been probing the alleged scam, based on whose reports the two IAS officials were suspended.
Also, based on the SIT probe, till now 22 persons, including five PCS officers, have been arrested in relation to the alleged scam.