New Delhi: In a 129-page report, chief vigilance officer (CVO) of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) Satish Verma has alleged, among other things, that Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, his cousin Goboi Rijiju, who is a contractor in Arunachal Pradesh, the managing director and chairman and some other top officials of the PSU have been involved in corrupt practices in the construction of 2 dams for the 600 MW Kameng Hydro Electric Project. A newspaper has reported that the amount involved in the ‘scam’ is Rs 450 crore.
Verma, who had sent this report in July to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Ministry of Power, is the Gujarat-cadre IPS officer who was at the centre of a controversy in March this year for allegedly employing coercive tactics on investigating colleagues to prove that the encounter of Ishrat Jahan was fake.
The NEEPCO has had issues with Verma, too. The company had alleged he had been absent from work without permission and, therefore, it transferred him to the CRPF in Tripura. Reminding the nation of this development in the company, the Ministry of Power issued a press release today that said,
Verma “was appointed as CVO of NEEPCO on 8th October, 2014, was transferred on 4th July, 2016 to CRPF, since he was charge sheeted on 9th May, 2016 for continued violation of CVC instructions and for violation of All India Service Conduct Rules, 1968, for not performing his duties with due diligence and care… After being relieved of his duties on 5th July, 2016, he sent 10 back dated reports to the Ministry of Power which were received between July 18, 2016 and July 25, 2016.”
But Verma had filed a 1,100-page petition before the Guwahati Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), in response to the NEEPCO’s charge against him, to complain that the CVO had cut short his tenure in the PSU by a year because he detected the scam in the company and investigated an allegedly dubious land deal in Gujarat.
Another newspaper says that the CBI paid surprise visits to the NEEPCO office in Arunachal Pradesh, following Verma’s complaint. But the investigating agency has not lodged any FIR against the public sector company or its officials yet.
This issue figured prominently in Parliament today, with the opposition demanding the government’s explanation on the matter along with Rijiju’s resignation. Opposition MPs made this and demonetisation excuses for not letting the Houses function normally today.
The government and the ruling BJP have come to the defence of the accused Union minister. The Ministry of Power has rubbished the allegation made in by Verma that Rijiju had written to it, seeking to release payments for a deal for transportation of boulders and sand that would benefit, among others, Rijiju’s relative. While BJP spokespersons last night said that the letter was written after the payment was already sanctioned, the Power Ministry reiterated the stand by saying that Rijiju’s letter to the Power Ministry has had “no bearing on any payments released by NEEPCO as the payment had already been released before his letter under authorisation of Verma.”
According to the government, Verma himself had approved much of the transactions he questioned later. The Power Ministry also says that “the project work was awarded to M/s Patel Engineering Ltd. (PEL) in December 2004, much before the present government took charge.” The government says that the work for transportation of boulders and sand was awarded to Patel Engineering Ltd. (PEL) in 2012 — much before the present government took charge.
Rijiju appeared before the media last evening to state that he had written the letter in response to appeals by some people of his constituency. A certain Anil Hangam was among the electorate of the minister’s constituency who had approached the latter in September 2015 after which the minister wrote the letter in November last year.
This Hangam, however, is also under Verma’s scanner as one of the key sub-contractors like Goboi Rijiju. His name figures in Verma’s report.
The Congress has pooh-poohed the BJP defence, questioning why the letter should be written at all if the money had already been sanctioned.
This fact is a slap on the face of those who looted India. Shamelessly fixing false stories with some unscrupulous elements. Truth prevails. pic.twitter.com/mFIVmFMsHy
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) December 14, 2016
The tweet where Rijiju shares the chronology of events related to the case
Rijiju has said further that Goboi Rijiju is not among his blood relations but members of the same clan are referred to as “cousins” in the part of the country where he hails from. However, in a recording of a telephone conversation that Verma had purportedly had with Goboi Rijiju, the latter alluded to the Union minister 17 times as “bhaiya” to give the caller the impression that Kiren Rijiju could influence the deal.
Furthermore, contrary to the minister’s claim that his voters had asked for clearance of “a few thousand rupees” to them, Goboi Rijiju in the conversation above is allegedly referring to payments worth Rs 30 lakh to Rs 1 crore that the government supposedly owed to Patel Engineering.