YS Malik, the Chairman of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has written to the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand S Ramaswamy and demanded that the names of NHAI officials be dropped from an FIR in a land acquisition scam worth Rs 240 crore, related to the widening of National Highway-74 (NH-74). Malik’s letter stated that dragging NHAI officers is bound to be counter-productive. Malik added that NHAI may find it difficult to post and retain officers in the state if the names are not dropped from the FIR. Nitin Gadkari, Union Road Transport & Highways Minister had asked Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat to reconsider a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe in the case, according to an Indian Express report.
Malik’s letter stated that it would be difficult for NHAI officials to deliver in the state as the project has already come to a standstill. Meanwhile, Nitin Gadkari in his letter to the Chief Minister has said that a CBI probe in the case will have a negative effect on the morale of NHAI officers. Gadkari’s letter further stated that the ”Ministry would re-examine usefulness of accepting additional projects in Uttarakhand,” as per an Indian Express report.
The FIR states that the land use of the acquired land was changed from agriculture to non-agriculture. The documents were also backdated so that higher compensation for the land could be claimed for the acquired land. Malik in his letter states that NHAI officers raised the issue with Competent Authority for Land Acquisition (CALA) in nearly 50 cases, he added that the officers even invoked arbitrary proceedings in 74 of 154 cases, according to the Indian Express.
The NHAI Chairman claims that NHAI officials did not disburse the money directly, adding that only the revenue officer who is a state government employee can determine the status of the land.
Uttarakhand Minister and government spokesperson Madan Kaushik told the Indian Express that he does not believe that the NHAI had no role to play in the scam. Kaushik also said that the state government wants CBI to probe the case and will soon seek the advice of the Attorney General in the case.