Ignoring the protestations of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has convinced the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe alleged irregularities in the acquisition of farmland in Uttarakhand for the construction of National Highway 74 (NH 74).
The irregularities are estimated to be the tune of ₹240 crore.
In a letter to Rawat, last month, Gadkari, who is the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, had warned that a CBI probe "would have an adverse impact on the morale of the officers" and the ministry "would have to re-examine the usefulness for taking up more projects in the state."
Rawat was sworn in as chief minister on March 18 after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Uttarakhand State Assembly election, earlier this year. A few days later, Rawat had said that he wanted to conduct a probe into the acquisition of farmland in the Udham Singh Nagar district.
"Irregularities worth Rs 240 crore have been detected in the acquisition of farmland for the purpose of the proposed NH-74 in Udham Singh Nagar district between 2011-2016. Farmland was shown as non-agricultural land to increase the compensation amount by at least 20 times to benefit chosen stakeholders and beneficiaries," Rawat said at the time.
In his letter, Gadkari wrote that he "greatly concerned about recent developments in the state".
"Firstly, an FIR was launched by the district administration of Udham Singh Nagar in the matter of awards finalized by CALA (Competent Authority Land Acquisition) (SLAO - Special Land Acquisition Officer), who is a revenue functionary of the state government. Not only that, a CBI inquiry has also been ordered by the government of Uttarakhand on the matter in which the NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) officers are being investigated," Gadkari wrote.
"In this background, we would have to re-examine the usefulness for taking up more projects in the state. I am certain you will appreciate the significance of the issues that I have pointed out and take immediate corrective measures to resolve the impasse," he wrote.
Announcing the CBI's decision to conduct the probe, Rawat said, "Right from the very first day, we had been very clear in our stand and we remained unmoved. The state government is focused on weeding out any kind of wrongdoing from the system in line with our policy on zero tolerance for corruption."
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