Public memory is notoriously short. A few years ago, the High Court of Allahabad, while hearing a public interest litigation had ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to enquire into the serious allegations of corruption running into thousands of crores of rupees in the illegal mining activities going on in Uttar Pradesh, during the SP Government’s regime.
In this connection, the CBI had conducted raids at several places including the then mining minister Gayatri Prajapati, the then secretary mining department Jivesh Nandan, IAS and several others.
Prajapati, who was the Minister for Mines in the latter half of his tenure in the SP government, taking over from the then Chief Minister was himself holding the charge of the Mining department for the first two years of his government, has been in jail for the past several years.
But what about the rest? It is public knowledge that the loot in the illegal mining activities had been going on unabated.
According to knowledgeable sources, crores of rupees were collected on a daily basis and sent to the top leaders and bureaucrats during the period under investigation by the CBI. However, barring some miniscule minions, others are still enjoying the ill-gotten money running into thousands of crores of rupees.
Interestingly, according to a recently published report of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), during the years 2005 to 2018, there were a raft of ‘irregularities’ running into thousands of crores, in the way land was allotted and development was approved due to the nexus between builders, officials and politicians, of the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA), causing severe ‘distress’ to homebuyers.
The CAG report highlights that under the encouraging patronage of their political bosses, the authorities in Noida brazenly diluted and tweaked rules to suit real estate developers. The interests of homebuyers, who had invested their life savings, were callously ignored.
The irregularities took a toll on the Authority's finances. The dues from builders have touched an astounding Rs 18,633 crore against an allotment value of Rs 14,000 crore, and still no action was taken against the defaulters as these entities had the patronage of the then political masters. This report reveals the facts, which are all in public knowledge but unfortunately, even then, nothing was done to punish these corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and land sharks.
The CAG report clearly states that nearly 80% of the total allotments of plots in the commercial category between 2005-2018 were secured by three real estate firms named Wave, Three C and Logix Group. Despite repeated violations by these companies, in terms of outstanding dues that accumulated to Rs 14,958.45 crore, the authority failed to take any action against them, as has been pinpointed by the CAG.
This endemic corruption continued unabated for decades due to political patronage enjoyed by these groups and many other builders. Due to these malpractices, thousands of buyers of projects launched by these three companies have not yet received their homes- even after a decade of booking the properties. All the three companies are facing a number of cases in courts.
Of nearly 50 lakh square metres of commercial area allotted between 2008 and 2014, officials of the Noida Authority allotted 79.83% to three real estate groups named Wave, Logix and Three C Group, the national auditor noted. The Audit report also reveals that these three entities violated terms and conditions with impunity, as the NOIDA authority officials and other bigwigs were in cahoots with them.
The systematic failure to take action therein despite repeated violations combined with the instances of non-payment involving outstanding dues of over Rs 14,000 crore suggests that the prime objective of NOIDA appeared to be allocation of land to them and enabling them to further benefit rather than for purposes of commercial development, the CAG reported.
The question that arises is why and how this kind of blatant corruption was allowed to go on unabated? Will the system at least act now when an independent auditor like CAG has brought this mammoth glaring corruption cases into the public domain? Despite the CBI investigation into this multibillion mining scam, why have the perpetrators of this crime been allowed to roam scot free and use this ill-gotten wealth to fight elections and capture power again to continue their looting spree, ad infinitum?
Recently teams of the Income Tax Department conducted searches at the residences of people close to the bigwigs of the then ruling Party. As expected, they questioned the timing of raids and asked why the I-T Department had arrived just before the election. Similarly, the scam regarding sale of Sugar mills has been under CBI investigation for years but only a few small fries had to face the heat and all the huge sharks are still swimming around having corruptly ingested crores of taxpayers’ money and are now aspiring to come to power again. When will the political games of these extortionist politicians end?
The question that needs to be asked today is that, despite the Hon’ble High Court’s order and despite the lapse of several years, despite the abundant evidence, why did the CBI not catch and punish all the big fishes involved in looting billions of rupees? When will the masterminds of these loots, running into thousands of crores, be brought to justice? Or is political power so sacrosanct that it overrides and negates the rule of law in our country?
(Vijay Shankar Pandey retired from the Indian Administrative Service. He has an established record of raising his voice against corruption in public life. Views expressed are exclusive to India Narrative and are personal)