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NH-74 scam: Road Transport Ministry miffed with Uttarakhand government for naming of NHAI officials in FIR

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) projects in Uttarakhand have come to a halt following a tussle between the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and the ruling BJP government.The ministry is miffed with the naming of NHAI officials in the FIR in the Rs 240 crore land acquisition scam for the NH-74 stretch in Uttarakhand.Soon after Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat met Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari[1] in New Delhi, NHAI chairman Yudhvir Singh Malik had shot off a letter to the Uttarakhand government threatening to stall its projects. Talking about his meeting with Gadkari on Thursday, Chief Minister Rawat had both the leaders had stressed on zero-tolerance against corruption.The newly-elected BJP government in Uttarakhand is at loggerheads with the NHAI over naming of its officials in the FIR in the Rs 240 crore land acquisition scam, involving the NH-74 stretch in the state.FIR copy. AGRICULTURAL LAND SHOWN AS NON-AGRICULTURAL The agricultural land was shown as non-agricultural to spike compensation, which led to loss of revenue apart from increase in the project cost. The Uttarakhand government has ordered a CBI probe into the case.Highly-placed sources told India Today that following the tough stand taken by the Uttarakhand chief minister during his meeting with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, the NHAI swung into action.

On 26th May, NHAI Chairman Yudhvir Singh Malik wrote a letter to Uttarakhand Chief Secretary S Ramaswamy, threatening that dragging NHAI officers in the case was bound to be counter-productive.He further warned the state government that in the given circumstances, it would be very difficult to expect NHAI officers to deliver on NH-74 projects in Uttarakhand where the work had come to a complete standstill. The NHAI chairman went a step further and told the chief secretary that if the FIR against his officers was not withdrawn, it (NHAI) would even go to the extent of withdrawing its officials from the state.GADKARI HAD WARNED UTTARAKHAND GOVERNMENT TOOIn a letter dated 5th April 2017, Gadkari had too written to the Uttarakhand chief minister, asking him to take ‘corrective measures’ in the naming of NHAI officials in the NH-74 scam. Gadkari has written that the action by the state government will have an adverse impact on the morale of the officers and will impede the execution of projects.

The minister had warned that he would re-examine NH-74 projects in the state. He had suggested immediate corrective measures to resolve the impasse.COMMISSIONER’S REPORT HAD ALLEGED NHAI OFFICIALS WORKED AS A SYNDICATEIn March, Kumaon Commissioner submitted a report to the state government, detailing the entire scam and how NHAI officials were hand-in-glove with local officers. The report says that ahead of the 3A notification, the agricultural land was converted into a non-agricultural one.

There is clear misuse of authority by the concerned officials of Nainital/Udham Singh Nagar. The officer has cited land revenue documents to establish the fact that the land acquired was being used for agricultural purposes even after it was notified. Kumaon Commissioner had alleged that the landowners, Sub Division, Tehsil, NHAI and other state government officials involved in the land acquisition, colluded as part of a syndicate leading to revenue losses.BACKGROUND OF THE SCAMIrregularities worth Rs 240 crore were detected during the investigation carried out by the state government in the acquisition of land for the purpose of the NH-74 stretch passing through Udham Singh Nagar between 2011-2016.

In the FIR registered with Pantnagar Police Station in Rudrapur district on March 10 2017, project directors of NHAI in Rudrapur and Najibabad were named along with their subordinates together with state government officials for award of 8 to 10 times higher compensation for the land acquired.

It was further alleged that the regional officer of NHAI in Uttarakhand adopted a pick-and-choose policy to grant compensation to those landowners in whose cases the award was received.Also read | NHAI toll guidelines being violated in Delhi[2]Also read | NHAI opens Jaipur-Delhi side of Gurgaon’s Hero Honda Chowk flyover for motorists[3]Also read | How Parrikar became CM: Gadkari reveals what happened on that night in Goa[4]

References

  1. ^ Nitin Gadkari (indiatoday.intoday.in)
  2. ^ Also read | NHAI toll guidelines being violated in Delhi (indiatoday.intoday.in)
  3. ^ Also read | NHAI opens Jaipur-Delhi side of Gurgaon’s Hero Honda Chowk flyover for motorists (indiatoday.intoday.in)
  4. ^ Also read | How Parrikar became CM: Gadkari reveals what happened on that night in Goa (indiatoday.intoday.in)



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