Read more below

  • Published 13.12.99
Lucknow, Dec. 13 :     In what is being interpreted as a signal to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the R.P. Gupta government in Uttar Pradesh is planning to restart the controversial Ambedkar Park project. The Rs 100-crore project, which includes a statue of B.R. Ambedkar, a park and a guest house, was started by the Mayavati government in 1997 before the Kalyan Singh administration ordered a stop to the construction work. The government?s move to kickstart the scheme is thus being seen as a definite hint on the BJP?s part that it is not averse to any future understanding with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh. Especially with the expelled former chief minister now targetting the backward caste vote bank. Chief minister R.P. Gupta, when contacted for his comments, said: ?It is a good project. Construction has started. We plan to finish it.? Kalyan Singh had requested a special audit of the scheme after the BSP-BJP alliance in the state collapsed in September 1997. A one-man administrative inquiry by the then chairman of NOIDA, T. George Joseph, a senior IAS officer, was also ordered. The inquiry conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) submitted its report in 1998. The Joseph Committee submitted its report in three instalments: November 1997, July 1998 and October 1998. Both the reports indicted the Mayavati administration for gross financial irregularities. According to information, the Joseph committee report gave specific instances of how two former chief secretaries, Birjendra Sahai and R.S. Mathur, both members of the high-powered finance and evaluation committee, ?recommended proposals in haste without technical evaluation of the proposals by the technical cell of the expenditure finance committee?. Both the inquiries found that project costs had soared from about Rs 2 crore to Rs 88.94 crore and funds were drawn from the state contingency fund flouting rules. A phenomenal 97 percent of the project costs was funded from the State Contingency Fund. These expenditure proposals were not included in successive budgets, thereby restricting the scope of legislative enquiry. But while the CAG inquiry report has been released, the government is silent on when the Joseph committee report will be made public. Yogendra Narayan, the current chief secretary, said: ?We have to be very careful. For instance, the report said there were irregularities in the purchase of sand. We will have to recheck that. Similarly there are other things mentioned that have to be checked.? The government seems to be questioning the very inquiry report it ordered. The Joseph committee report also said that the then chief minister, Mayavati, used to visit the project site regularly and sanction additions on the spot which the high-powered expenditure finance committee, comprising the chief secretary, the PWD secretary and the vice-chairman of the Lucknow Development Authority, cleared almost on an ad hoc basis. While noting that the increased costs where a result of ?decisions taken during frequent visits of the CM to the project site?, the CAG report also mentioned that eminent architect and painter Satish Gujral was given the contract for the project without open competition, violating the guidelines of Council of Architecture. However, administrative sources say the two reports will get a quiet burial as the government is under no compulsion to take any action based on them. George Joseph, currently principal secretary, Institutional Finance, said, ?My job was to submit the reports. The chief minister (Kalyan Singh) had asked me to work without any pressure. I did my job dilligently. The rest is up to the government.?