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Sunken boat deal takes graft-busters to BSF top

New Delhi, Nov. 28: The Central Vigilance Commission is investigating whether the Border Security Force’s former director-general, E.N. Ram Mohan, had played any role in a boat purchase deal that was truncated in the wake of a controversy.

The Union home ministry, which governs all Central police organisations, had floated tenders for buying 61 boats in 1995 on the BSF’s request. The boats were meant for the Northeast’s border with Bangladesh.

The Rs 4.21-crore contract was awarded to Fibroplast, a company based in Delhi’s Okhla.

The BSF bought 32 boats from Fibroplast, though they did not conform to the specifications. When some officers raised objections, the force cancelled the purchase of the rest 29.

Five other senior BSF officers are also being probed. The BSF’s inspector-general (provisioning), B.D. Sharma, confirmed that Ram Mohan’s alleged involvement was under investigation. “I have gone through the entire file and we have sent a reply to the ministry of home affairs on the subject about two to three months back,” he said.

The vigilance commission had taken up the matter in 2000 but received little support from the BSF and the home ministry, sources said. But Sharma said the panel had “wanted certain clarifications from us and we have already forwarded them”.

“We did not fix responsibility because as per the basic tenets of natural justice, a senior officer should conduct an inquiry against an accused officer. In this case, the CVC had to look into it because there can be no officer senior to the director-general,” Sharma added.

A five-member board was formed for the trial of the prototype boat on June 3, 1996, in Dhubri, Assam. After the trial, the board found the boat in a “satisfactory condition”.

But the board recorded that the boat could accommodate only 17 persons as against the requirement of 30. “The present model is of V shape, which will cause problems when water level goes down to less than five feet.”

A month later, Commander S.C. Yadav of the Dhubri water wing wrote to the inspector-general, frontier headquarters: “If the boat cannot ply nine months of a year because of the V shape, what is the point in having suitability or safety' A boat is required to be plied in the river and not be kept as a show-piece.”

The home ministry later informed the company that the prototype was approved. The boats were eventually transferred to south Bengal as they could not be operated in Assam.

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