Man­mo­han blasts govt, Road scam: BMC to re­cover `959cr calls cash chaos ‘loot’

CRACK­DOWN Con­trac­tors’ pay­ments for other projects will be with­held, says BMC

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Saub­hadra Chat­terji saub­hadra.chat­terji@hin­dus­tan­times.com Saub­hadra Chat­terji saub­hadra.chat­terji@hin­dus­tan­times.com Chetna Yerunkar chetna.yerunkar@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.”

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