Scams : the hallmark of Uttarakhand

Dehradun : It goes to the dubious distinction of this mountain state that both the elected governments after the formation of Uttarakhand have had commissions formed to probe the scams allegedly taken place during the tenure.

It only gives credence to the fact that corruption has been the hallmark of this state, which ironically has the pseudonym – Land of the Gods.

Uttarakhand was formed on 9 Nov 2000 after 53,483 sq kms was carved out of Uttar Pradesh. It was announced by the then BJP-led government at the centre and an interim BJP government under the chief ministership of Nitya Nand Swami was formed.

This was perhaps the biggest mistake that the BJP made, and despite making  the state and fulfilling the aspirations of the people, it has never come to power on its own in Uttarakhand.

The first election to the vidhan sabha was held in 2002 and the Congress came to power. The party high command settled for veteran leader Narain Dutt Tewari, who belongs to the Kumaon division of the state as the chief minister.

He remained a de jure chief minister and reports are that Indira Hridesh, currently the finance minister was the de facto chief minister.

The second vidhan sabha election was held in 2007 and the BJP, with the help of the UKD came to power. Amongst its major decisions was appointment of a commission to look into the over 50 scandals that were alleged against the Tewari-led Congress government.

A retired Justice B S Verma was to head the one-man commission to probe into the allegations.

As is the norm with such commissions, it failed to complete the probe despite getting repeated extensions and Verma quit.

Thereafter Justice (retd) R S Sharma was appointed to complete the probe, but he too quit and Justice (retd) B C Kandpal was given the job.

He too could look into just 60 of the 68 cases that were referred to him and at the fag end of its tenure, the previous state government recommended action in 17 cases, which were sent to the legal department for framing charges.

Kandpal quit in November last year and the recommendations made by him in the allegations that he probed have not seen the light of day. They are probably collecting dust somewhere in the government archives.

Now in 2012, the third vidhan sabha elections have been held and the Congress has come to power, not on having a majority on its own, but being the single largest party and taking help of independent, UKD and the BSP.

On March 13, Vijay Bahuguna was sworn in as chief minister of the Cong-led government in Uttarakhand and on April 13, he has appointed a one-man commission headed by a retired IAS officer, K L Bhatti to probe the allegations against the previous BJP government.

Incidentally it will also look into over 50 allegations of scams committed during the BJP government and has been asked to submit its report within six months.

Some of the major scams, alleged to have taken place when Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ was the BJP chief minister of the state include the Haridwar Kumbh – 2010 wherein a number of irregularities reportedly took place; the Citurgia land scam in which the land use of Citurgia Chemicals in Rishikesh was changed in just one day on 26 Sept 2009; the hydro power projects in which the companies of the state were completely ignored and of the 56 power projects totally 1800 MW, 25 were given to just one company of Chandigarh and the natural calamity of Sept 2010 in which 222 persons and over 1500 animals were killed as rains lashed the state and Rs 500 crores were released by the centre to provide relief and shelter to the people.

Where this money went is a question that perhaps the probe will reveal, but officially it came to light that Rs 50 lakhs of this money was spent on the Auli winter games in Chamoli district and Rs six crores of this money was given to the irrigation department in Hardwar district.

But while these scams are being probed and perhaps their reports will be made public, but questions are being asked about the biggest scam committed by the bureaucracy of the state against its people, which has conveniently been placed on the back burner.

The expectations of the people was that Gairsain, located mid-way between Kumaon and Garhwal divisions be made the new capital of the state when it is carved out and this was made public to the officialdom.

But the bureaucracy, which was looking after its interests mainly medical and educational facilities for their children and families, conveniently looked the other way and made Dehradun the interim capital of Uttarakhand when it was carved out as the best schools of the state, nay the country are located here.

They were aware of the fact that once announced and made the interim capital and thereafter buildings like the chief minister’s residence, the governor’s residence, the secretariat been made, there will be no way it will be shifted.

And now it has conveniently floated the proposal that the new vidhan sabha building for which the centre has sanctioned Rs 80 crores also be located ion Dehradun.

Eve as the people are clamouring that Gairsain be made the capital and this once green valley that Dehradun was having become a jungle of concrete, the bureaucracy in the biggest scam against the hopes and expectations of the people of Uttarakhand are scuttling the move.

Who will probe this scam is what the people of the state want to know.

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A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt was Editor, Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish had worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, he was a recipient of many awards Jagdish Bhatt, aged 72, breathed his last on 28th August 2021 at his Dehradun residence.

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