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SJDA scam: Asok seeks white paper

- CPM wants public to know graft details

Siliguri, Dec. 10: The CPM today demanded that the state government bring out a white paper on the alleged misappropriation of funds at the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority.

He also sought a judicial probe into the circumstances that had led to the release of G. Kiran Kumar, the former chief executive officer of the SJDA within 24 hours of his arrest.

Former CPM minister Asok Bhattacharya said here that the white paper was necessary for the people to know how the government money had been siphoned off from the SJDA.

“Considering the gravity of the offence committed by former officials of the SJDA in connivance with some private construction firms and the withdrawal of government money in the name of projects which did not turn into reality, we want the state government to publish a white paper on the scam,” said Bhattacharya, who is also a former chairman of the SJDA.

“People, particularly the residents of the SJDA area, should know how much money has been embezzled in the name of each such project and who were involved in the scam,” he added.

Eleven people, including three engineers and seven representatives of private firms, had been arrested in connection with the alleged scam. The former CEO of the SJDA, Kiran Kumar, was also arrested, leading to the transfer of the Siliguri commissioner, K. Jayaraman.

Of the 11 arrested men, only one person is still behind bars. Others were granted bail and released from jail. A former assistant engineer (electrical) of the SJDA, Saptarshi Pal, who is still in jail, was denied bail today by the additional district and sessions’ judge, first court, here. He was granted bail in seven cases and is yet to get bail in the eighth case.

The investigators said funds to the tune of Rs 150 crore had been paid to private firms even before projects assigned to them by the SJDA were completed. The funds had been sanctioned for the construction of three electric crematoriums and two sewerage treatment plants here, installation of CCTV cameras across Siliguri and cleaning and de-silting of the Jorapani river flowing through the town.

The defalcation came to light when north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb became the chairman of the SJDA in March this year. The scam occurred when Siliguri MLA Rudranath Bhattacharya was the chairman.

Deb reported the anomalies to chief minister Mamata Banerjee who ordered an inquiry by the detective wing of the Siliguri metropolitan police.

Asok Bhattacharya also demanded a judicial probe into the release of Kiran Kumar on bail. The IAS officer was arrested on November 30. However, Kiran Kumar secured bail the very next day as investigators told the court that they did not need him in custody any more.

“We want a judicial inquiry to find out how Kiran Kumar got bail within 24 hours of his arrest, though non-bailable sections of the IPC had been slapped on him. The police who had sought his remand for 10 days on November 30 took an about turn the next day and told the court that they didn’t have objections to his bail. People should know what prompted the police to change their stand so fast,” said the CPM leader.

Bhattacharya also alleged that some members of the SJDA board were working as contractors. “There are some members on the SJDA board who clandestinely work as contractors. We want a proper probe to find out whether these members have any connection with the firms which have been involved in the scam.”

Jibesh Sarkar, the Darjeeling district secretary of the CPM, said the party would file an application under the RTI Act to bring out more details about the SJDA scam. The CPM also said it would file a PIL in Calcutta High Court for a CBI probe into the scam. Three PILs have already been filed in the high court for the CBI probe.