<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Union Minister Kiren Rijiju was in the eye of a political storm today over an alleged Rs 450 crore scam in a power project in Arunachal Pradesh after he wrote a letter to the Power Ministry to clear the bills of contractors, provoking opposition demand for his ouster but he denied any wrongdoing. The controversy erupted over news reports that the Chief Vigilance Officer of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) Satish Verma, an IPS officer of Gujarat cadre who probed the Ishrat Jahan encounter case as part of the Special Investigation Team, had sent a report to the CBI, CVC and the Power Ministry highlighting alleged corruption in construction of two dams as part of the 600 mw Kameng Hydel project.In his report, Verma was said to have named Kiren Rijiju and Goboi Rijiju, who he claimed was the minister’s cousin, while alleging an “elaborate conspiracy” involving contractors, NEEPCO officials and the West Kameng district administration to defraud the state-run company and the government of funds that “may extend up to Rs 450 crore”. Alleging that it was a Rs 450-crore scam committed by using false and inflated transportation bills, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala released an audio tape of a purported conversation of the minister’s claimed cousin with Verma, and Rijiju’s letter recommending that held up payments be released. “Kiren Rijiju has no right to stay in office. He should either be dismissed by the Prime Minister or asked to resign till an independent probe is complete,” he said. The opposition party also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying his “tall claims” of bringing transparency have “fallen flat” as had happened with several other scandals in the past including Vyapam, Lalitgate and the Vijay Mallya issue. “Mr Modi’s claims of transparency and honesty is now under question. People of India are looking at what action he takes on this issue,” Surjewala said. Rejecting Congress’ charge of his complicity in the alleged scam, Rijiju said he had only forwarded a memorandum received from “petty contractors” from his village to Power Minister Piyush Goyal on November 4, 2015 to get their petition considered on a priority.”I have written the letter to the Power Minister after I received representations from some people in my constituency in Arunachal West regarding pending bills. I have done no wrong and there is no corruption.”Peeved at the allegations, the Minister said, “Those who planted the story will be beaten up with shoes when they will come to our area.”He also denied that Goboi Rijiju was related to him, saying, “Among tribals in a village, everybody is a cousin. He is not related to me by blood. I have no brothers. Both my elder and younger brothers have expired.” National Secretary Shrikant Sharma also insisted that the contractor, who is at the centre of allegations, is not Rijiju’s cousin as alleged.”It is a completely baseless charge. Congress and its friends have hatched a conspiracy to target BJP as they have not been able to find a single case of corruption against our government,” he said.In his report, Verma said though the CBI conducted two “surprise” inspections, it did not file any FIR in connection with the alleged scam.Targeting the CBI, Surjewala alleged that the premier investigation agency has become a “puppet” in the hands of the Modi government and has not even registered an FIR in the matter despite the report by the vigilance officer.”If PM has courage of conviction, he must either sack Kiren Rijiju or ask him to resign and conduct a fair and free probe so that truth comes out…Till then, Rijiju should be divested of his post.””The Prime in the run up to elections used to say that he will neither do or allow corruption to happen. But there have been a series of charges of corruption that came to light in the Modi government,” he said.Payments to the main contractor Patel Engineering was stopped on the recommendation from Verma.Aam Aadmi Party also demanded Rijiju’s sacking for “trying to sweep under the carpet”, the alleged Rs 450-crore power scam.Addressing a press conference, party leader Ashish Khetan said the Minister of State for Home Affairs not only wrote a letter to Power Minister Piyush Goyal to release funds of contractors in state-run NEEPCO, but also “hid the fact that his brother was a sub-contractor in it.” Hitting out at the claims, the government said the claims were ‘false and baseless’ and that the contract issued in 2004 and 2012 were made under authorisation of the then CVO Shri SC Verma. They also added that there was no role of MoS Home Affairs in the release of payment. The Ministry of Power released a statement which said: Certain unsubstantiated, false and baseless allegations have been made by some persons in sections of the media about some alleged irregularities in payments made by NEEPCO Ltd. which are completely false and are totally denied.From the record, it is gathered that an officer, Shri S.C. Verma, who 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. It was found that Shri Verma stayed away from Shillong, the headquarters of NEEPCO, for a total period of 310 days during the 18 month period (October 2014 to March 2016) without intimating the authorities or submitting any tour reports. It is also reported that most of his tours were to places which were not the area of operations of NEEPCO.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 18th July, 2016 to 25th July, 2016. Further it has been reported that Shri Verma retained some official files in his personal custody and did not hand them over at the time of relinquishing his charge. It has also been confirmed that 10 (ten) outward dispatch numbers were taken by Shri Verma from the Establishment Section of NEEPCO before relinquishing charge, and the same numbers were found in the office copy of the forwarding letters of these reports, which were received later on. The report on the alleged matter has been examined by the present CVO of NEEPCO and forwarded to CVC last month for appropriate action.As regards the alleged irregularities, it is pertinent to note that the project work was awarded to M/s Patel Engineering Ltd. (PEL) in December 2004, much before the present government took charge. Work for transportation of boulders/ sand was awarded to them in 2012 itself, much before the present government took charge. PEL executed the work from December, 2012 to July, 2015 and payment was made to them from time to time during this period, after due process of verification and measurement of quantity at site and the certification of distance by the State government officials namely Asstt. District Mineral Officer (ADMO), regarding quantity of boulder/sand mined from the respective quarry. In July 2015, Shri Verma visited the site and initiated an investigation and stopped all payments due to which the work at site was affected. On examination of the record, it has been found that, Shri Verma himself authorised on 19th October, 2015, adhoc payment of 60% of the billed amount and subsequently himself further authorised the provisional payment of 80% of the billed amount vide letter dated 3rd February, 2016.On 9th November, 2015, Hon’ble Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Kiren Rijiju forwarded a representation of local inhabitants of his constituency, complaining about the stoppage of payments to the sub-contractor of PEL for transportation of boulders/sand. At no point did Shri Rijiju recommend that payment be released but only requested that “kindly get this petition considered in your Ministry sympathetically on priority” (Copy of his letter and representation of local inhabitants is enclosed).Rijiju letter It was reported to the Ministry that, under the instructions of Shri Verma 60% payment had already been made on 4th November, 2015 to M/s PEL, much before the letter of Shri Kiren Rijiju. The same was intimated to Shri Rijiju by Shri Piyush Goyal, MoS (Independent Charge) Power vide letter dated 31st December, 2015. Piyush Goyal’s letterHence, the letter written by Hon’ble MoS Home Affairs has no bearing on any payments released by NEEPCO as the payment had already been released before his letter under authorization of Shri Verma. NEEPCO is a Mini Ratna company and the government does not interfere in the operational matters of PSUs. No instructions or directions by the Government were given to NEEPCO at any time for making any payments. Thus, the allegations made are baseless, totally false and seem to be motivated by the charge-sheet issued against an officer for violation of CVC instructions and service conduct rules. The following documents were also released by the government:


Ministry of Power backs Kiren Rijiju, releases documents to counter Congress ‘Rs 450 crore scam’ claims