Stink of a multi-crore bitumen purchase scam spreads in Himachal

Shimla: As layers of a bitumen purchase scam peel, the revenue loss caused to the state exchequer is expected to run into several crores and more officials are expected to drop into the vigilance net as more cases get registered.

Two cases at Una and Hamirpur anti-corruption police station have already been registered regarding irregularities in purchase of bitumen in the last financial year that have come to light in the ongoing investigations, AN Sharma, IG vigilance told this correspondent.

Sources revealed that another corruption case has been made out and is likely to be registered in Poanta Sahib, soon.

The matter under investigation since May figured among the charges that BJP as an opposition party had leveled and submitted to the governor then against the previous congress government. On assuming office at the turn of the year an inquiry had been initiated.

Public works department (PWD) had outsourced purchase and transport of bitumen to HP Agro Industries, a government undertaking. With supplies ordered not reaching their destined divisions, corruption charges had surfaced.

The demand and supply in 22 PWD sub-divisions for a fifteen month period starting from 1st April, 2007 is under check, said Hardesh Bhist, SP vigilance who heads the special investigating unit on the case.

Several consignments of bitumen lifted from Indian Oil Corporation refinery at Panipat or from Hindustan Petroleum depot at Panipat are alleged not to have reached the assigned destinations.

Some assignments that were marked for distant high altitude places are entered to have been delivered by the same lorry twice on a given day, some are shown to have lifted more drums than the carrying capacity of the vehicle and some assignments reached their destination several months after they were lifted, said Bhist.

The transport job was handed out to three Chandigarh based transports, Amit Singla, Brig Lal-Mohan Lal, MK Enterprises and Samolka based Haryana Transporters, documents revealed.

After investigations started, HP Agro Industries has asked the transporters to cough up over Rs 3.5 crore for delays in delivery and have even threatened to revoke bank guarantees, sources said.

At just three sub-divisions, about a thousand drums worth about Rs 50 lakhs have not been delivered. A PWD junior engineer from Una has not reported for work after a case was registered.

Magnitude of the scam will only be revealed after papers of other sub-divisions are checked and official of HP Agro Industries, the nodal agency involved in the purchase and supply business and PWD officials responsible for taking in stocks ordered are questioned, said senior vigilance officials.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik has nurtured Hill Post for over a decade. A chequered path had him drift from managing family owned apple orchards, to turning a documentary filmmaker, to a journalist - with India’s leading television networks and newspapers, to boot strapping in founding Start-Ups. He lives in Shimla.

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