The multi-crore national highway scam rocked the Uttarakhad Assembly as the budget session commenced today, with the opposition Congress demanding suspension of business listed for the day to hold a debate on the Centre’s alleged reluctance to order a CBI probe into the case. The leader of Opposition Indira Hridayesh referred to Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari’s letter to Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and accused the Union Government of trying to shield NHAI officials. After the BJP came to power in March, alleged irregularities to the tune of Rs 240 crore were detected in the acquisition of land for the National Highway-74 between 2011-2016.
Rawat had suspended six officials and recommended a CBI probe into the scam. However, the Centre is yet to direct the CBI to investigate the case. The moment Speaker Premchand Aggarwal assumed the chair today, Hridayesh drew his attention to her notice for a debate on the subject under Rule 310 which meant permitting a discussion in the House by suspending the business listed for the day. The speaker asked the opposition members to not insist on a debate under the rule as the question hour was important with many issues of public interest listed for the day.
Hridayesh tried to convince the chair that the issue was very important and accused the Centre of not only dragging its feet over the CM’s recommendation for a CBI probe, but also trying to protect NHAI officials named in an FIR in connection with it. The Leader of Opposition read Gadkari’s letter which states that such an action will adversely affect the morale of NHAI officials and impede the progress of projects taken up by the authority in the state.
Taking exception to the “threatening tone” of the letter which also said that if the state government went ahead with its action, the NHAI will have to re-examine usefulness of taking up more projects in the state, she said it reflected a clear lack of political will on part of the powers-that-be to institute a CBI probe into the scam.
When the speaker refused to budge from his stand, the Congress members rushed into the well of the House insisting on a debate under Rule 310 by shouting slogans forcing adjournment of the House for 15 minutes which was later extended for another 15 minutes. When the House reassembled after the adjournment, the protest began again forcing the Speaker to hold a debate on a the admissibility of her notice.