Manmohan blasts govt, Road scam: BMC to recover `959cr calls cash chaos ‘loot’
CRACKDOWN Contractors’ payments for other projects will be withheld, says BMC
FormerPrimeMinister Manmohan Singh launched on Thursday a broadside against the government’s clampdown on the cash economy, calling it a “monumental mismanagement” that might shave at least two percentage points off India’s economic growth and hit the poor hard.
Singh, the architect of India’s reforms that led to years of rapid growth, shed his usual reticent image, and said dozens of deaths and people’s distress from the scrapping of high-value banknotes meant the plan had led to “organised loot and legalised plunder”.
“This move will weaken and erode the people’s confidence in our currency and banking system,” he said, adding that demonetisation will hurt agriculture, small industries and workers in the informal sector.
“Even those who say this measure… is in the interest of the country in the long run, I am reminded of (economist) John Keynes who once said, ‘In the long run, we are all dead’”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat in the Rajya Sabha and heard out the criticism from his predecessor. He didn’t return to the House after lunch, angering the opposition which then stalled the debate demanding his presence.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh delivered a stinging riposte to the government on Thursday over demonetisation but the ground for his stirring speech in Rajya Sabha was created by separate events a few days earlier.
Singh, after all, was least likely to speak in the winter session but for the uproar over a comment by the leader of opposition in the Upper House, Ghulam Nabi Azad, who drew a parallel between people killed by terrorists and death of people linked to demonetisation
Sources said after the BJP latched on to Azad’s comment and tried to project the Congress as “insensitive”, at least three top opposition leaders felt there was an urgent need to “change the narrative” of the discourse. “The BJP tried to link the issue with patriotism while we wanted to focus on the plight of the people,” said a senior opposition leader.
Last Friday, two opposition leaders spoke to Azad and Anand Sharma.
The 16 contractors under scanner for the shoddy reconstruction of 234 roads in Mumbai have defrauded the city of more than Rs900 crore, civic officials concluded on Thursday. Civic chief Ajoy Mehta, said, “We have estimated Rs959 crore is the likely misappropriated amount. However, the final road report is yet to be completed.” Officials said the money to be paid to the contractors for other civic works they have taken up or completed will be withheld to make up the loss, until the final road report is out.
These 16 contractors have undertaken new works worth approximately Rs2,000 crore (starting October 1). The poor quality of their previous work — the repair and reconstruction of 234 roads worth Rs1,700 crore — came to the fore after the BMC conductedaprobe. Whilethefirst phase of the probe, which examined 34 roads, ascertained Rs114 crore was misappropriated, the second phase of probe, which examined 200 roads, calculated the loss to be Rs845 crore, taking the total to Rs959 crore.
The roads department had requested the chief engineer (vigilance) — who conducted the scam probe — to identify the quantum of payment that needs to be withheld/recovered. A senior civic officer said, “We have decided on the quantum of amount that these 16 contractors owe us. This amount will be recovered from new as well as ongoing road works’ payments. There is a possibility the contractors have already been paid for the shoddy roads. So while they are still working on other works, we have decided not to pay them until the defraud amount is recovered.”