Graft, scams hog limelight in Himachal assembly (Himachal Pradesh Newsletter)
Shimla, April 1 (IANS) Accusations of graft and scams have been creating an impasse in the budget session of the Himachal Pradesh assembly, with the opposition Congress continuing to boycott a minister facing allegations of corruption.
From the distribution of subsidised pulses worth Rs.180 crore annually to the allotment of India's largest hydropower project in the private sector to the distribution of CFLs to 16.5 lakh households to a proposed scheme to provide free school uniforms to over 900,000 students, corruption allegations have dogged many projects.
Congress legislator G.S. Bali said he smelled a rat in the allotment of the hydropower project to Jaypee Karcham Hydro Corp Ltd, a subsidiary of the Rs.20,000 crore Jaypee Group, by the state government.
"The chief minister should order a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe to know how the company managed to get the project without competitive bidding. It's a scam running into thousands of crores, which may eventually turn into lakhs of crores," Bali said in the assembly.
"The company has been allowed to generate 1,000 MW but as per our information, it can generate up to 1,400 MW (due to over-design in its structure). It has been extended undue concessions and benefits by the government. This needs to be probed," he said.
Bali alleged Jaypee "is not allowing government functionaries to inspect the project".
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said a technical committee has already been set up to look into all the aspects, including enhanced generation capacity.
The chief minister in turn blamed the previous Congress government for granting extension to the company in the scheduled commercial operation date up to Nov 18, 2011, without charging any extension fees.
Dhumal reminded Bali that it was his government that signed a supplementary agreement with the company Dec 19, 2007, a day after the assembly poll, and gave a two-year extension.
"If you are still demanding (a CBI probe), make a demand in writing. I will accept it," said Dhumal.
Heated exchanges were also witnessed between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress over alleged lapses in the distribution of subsidised pulses.
In a written reply, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ramesh Dhawala admitted that certain conditions in the tender were unauthorisedly altered to curtail competition. A case has been registered and two officials have been suspended.
The civil supplies corporation, which is providing three pulses, two edible oils and salt to over 11 lakh people at subsidised prices, procures 51,000 tonnes of pulses every year, costing Rs.180 crore.
Denying any irregularities in the implementation of the Rs.60-crore Atal school uniform scheme for schoolchildren, Dhumal assured the house the entire process for procurement of uniforms was transparent.
On Congress legislator Kaul Singh's assertion that substandard CFLs were supplied under the Atal Bijli Bachat Yojana, Dhumal said providing the lamps to households helped the state conserve energy worth Rs.110 crore in a year.
The yojana was launched in November 2008. A pack of four CFLs - two each of 15 watt and 20 watt - were provided to 16.5 lakh households.
Participating in the debate on the budget for 2012-13, Congress legislator Gangu Ram Musafir slammed the ruling BJP government on corruption, saying even senior BJP leader Shanta Kumar has demanded that tainted ministers be dropped.
The Congress has also been boycotting Health Minister Rajeev Bindal in the assembly since March 20 over allegations of corruption.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)
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