The CBI has decided to launch a probe into alleged irregularities running into crores of rupees in the procurement of land for National Highway 74 in Udham Singh Nagar district, said Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat. The chief minister had over two months ago recommended an inquiry by the top investigative agency into the scam. Announcing this in the state assembly during its ongoing budget session yesterday, the chief minister said, “We had been very clear in our stand on this from day one and we remained unmoved. “We have to eliminate any wrongdoing from the system in pursuit of our policy of zero tolerance to corruption. I am happy that the CBI inquiry will now take things forward,” he said. Taking cognisance of a report by a state government appointed special investigating team citing financial irregularities in the procurement of land for NH-74, Rawat had recommended a CBI probe into it on March 25 a week after being sworn in as CM. The delay in the Centre’s response to and a letter from Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari saying that a CBI probe will have an adverse impact on the morale of NHAI officials had prompted opposition Congress to allege that the BJP governments, both in the state and at the Centre, were unwilling to have the scam investigated by the agency. However, the chief minister as well as the state BJP president Ajay Bhatt maintained that there was no ambiguity over the issue and a CBI probe will definitely be ordered into the scam.
The issue of delay in investigation of the scam by CBI was raked up by opposition Congress on the first day of the Budget Session amidst allegations that the scale of the scam was even larger than the numbers being talked about. A preliminary enquiry had pegged the scam to be worth almost Rs 240 crore. The inquiry had found that during the land acquisition process for the highway the land use pattern was changed from agricultural to non-agricultural to benefit a few landholders, who are believed to have got 20 times higher compensation than the actual cost. Six state-level officers have already been suspended in the matter.