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INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.
     CURRENT ISSUE OCTOBER 16, 2006
 
   STATES: UTTAR PRADESH
 

Mulayam Hits Mafia Hard

Chief Minister Mulayam Singh has ordered a massive crackdown on the mafia in his state. Is his reaction to Sonia Gandhi's graft allegations also a calculated step keeping the polls in mind?

 

"The CRF roads are not up to the mark. Roads in Rae Bareili are in a bad shape."

SONIA GANDHI
CONGRESS PRESIDENT

It seems Congress President Sonia Gandhi just gave Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav a shot in the arm. When she criticised the state Government for the construction of poor quality roads in her Rae Bareili constituency, she gave him a platform to fight corruption. Mulayam has not only ordered an inquiry into this particular allegation, but has also launched a crackdown on the construction mafia in Uttar Pradesh. The Government has booked more than 150 erring contractors and engineers-the strongest-ever action against those involved in siphoning off money meant for the developmental projects in the road sector of the state.

On September 16, Sonia Gandhi had visited her constituency Rae Bareili, before leaving for the Navnirman rally. Addressing a meeting there, she had said that the UPA Government at the Centre had sanctioned funds from the Central Road Fund (CRF) for the construction of roads in the area. But the Public Works Department of the state Government had not done a good job. The roads were poor, she alleged.

With assembly elections round the corner, the chief minister thought it politically prudent to take up the gauntlet. He asked his younger brother Shiv Pal Singh Yadav (who holds the PWD portfolio) and the principal secretary, PWD and home, Satish K. Agarwal, to set things right. Agarwal secretly constituted two high-level teams headed by A.N. Goel and S.R. Saraswat, officers of chief engineer rank.

CRUX OF THE SCANDAL

CONTRACTORS USED OVERSIZED BALLAST STONES

BINDING MATERIAL WAS NOT USED AS PER THE CONTRACT AGREEMENT

EARTHWORK WAS NOT DONE PROPERLY

WATERING AND ROLLING OF THE ROAD WAS NOT DONE

THICKNESS OF THE BLACKTOP HAS BEEN FOUND TO BE LESS AS COMPARED TO THE CONTRACT

CREST IS DRY AND CHIPPING

Agarwal directed his men to collect samples from different sites in Rae Bareili one night and get their quality examined. The report, prepared in just four days, revealed that the contractors had severely compromised with quality when constructing the roads in the Congress chief's constituency. "Nobody should be spared," said the chief minister, adding, "even if the contractors are from the Samajwadi Party."

In an unprecedented act, the PWD minister himself and Inspector General of Police (Lucknow zone) Arun Kumar Gupta lodged firs against 70 contractors and 29 engineers. Police teams raided the houses of the contractors, a dozen were thrown behind bars and many more placed under suspension. They belonged to the Congress, BJP as well as the Samajwadi Party (SP). Some of them were also linked to imprisoned Independent MLA Akhilesh Singh. "The inquiry report and the subsequent raids established beyond doubt that mafia dons were flourishing in Uttar Pradesh, usurping government funds meant for developmental works," said Agarwal.

  PICTURE SPEAK
ON THE OFFENSIVE: Mulayam has launched a hunt to catch the corrupt
In many ways, the massive crackdown on the mafia is unprecedented in the history of the state. Uttar Pradesh has been trying to get rid of this menace for nearly 15 years, but lack of political will ensured failure. The official report of the state police lists 280 mafia groupings-120 land mafia gangs, 44 contract mafia gangs, 36 criminal mafia gangs, 31 liquor mafia gangs and others. Out of the total, Kanpur district scores the highest with 108 gangs with 92 operating in Kanpur city alone.

A number of these are led by the mananiya vidhayaks (respected MLAs). BSP MP from Azamgarh Ramakant Yadav, MP Madan Bhaiyya, MLAs Vijay Mishra, Akhilesh Kumar Singh, ex-bsp MP Dawood Ahmed, ex-MLA Udaibhan are some of the prominent politicians on the list. With operations in railways, irrigation, PWD, real estate and mining, the mafia rakes in more than Rs 25,000 crore every year, a senior police officer revealed. "When the mafia leaders are fully armed with money and muscle power, they plunge into politics for their survival. Most of the times they succeed in becoming an MLA or MP, thereby insulating themselves against any direct police action," explained Inspector General of police Arun Kumar Gupta.

The road sector has always been the main source of income for the mafia. They either ask their men directly to grab the contracts or allow an outsider to take the contract after accepting a hefty commission. After the PWD budget for the roads was raised from Rs 2,500 crore to nearly Rs 6,000 crore this year, more and more gangs thronged this sector. As part of the crackdown, the PWD minister has blacklisted nearly two dozen contractors working with the mafia gangs and identified sensitive districts like Rae Bareili, Ghazipur, Balia, Azamgarh, Gonda, Chitrakoot, Etawah, Mainpuri and Etah as dacoit prone. "I have no hesitation in admitting that we had to deploy police at the time of construction of roads and bridges in the remote regions of Jalaun and Etawah," admitted Satish Agarwal.

In Rae Bareili, a large number of criminals have been grabbing contracts under the protective umbrella of parties like SP, BSP, BJP, as well as the Congress. Mafia gangs have flourished in Rae Bareili under the patronage of the Congress from the days of Indira Gandhi. Akhilesh Singh says from behind the bars, "I am being targeted because I am opposing Mulayam Singh and supporting Sonia Gandhi." However, the PWD minister clarified that it was baseless to say that any individual or party is being targeted. "Some of those who have been booked in Rae Bareili belong to the sp and the BJP too," says Yadav.

To carry the point of political neutrality further, the PWD has hatched secret preparations to conducts raids in sp strongholds like Azamgarh, Balia, and Mainpuri. "How can we be a silent spectator and allow mafia gangs to plunder the funds meant for development. We cannot deprive the people of the state basic infrastructural facilities," says Agarwal. Chief minister Mulayam Singh, it seems, has killed two birds with one stone-on one hand, obliging Sonia Gandhi by ordering an inquiry into the road construction in Rae Bareili and on the other, exploiting the opportunity to refurbish the image of his Government by initiating a crackdown on the mafia-contractor-engineer nexus.

Anyway, it is the state that stands to gain from the Government waking up and smelling the proverbial coffee.

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INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.
CURRENT ISSUE
OCTOBER 16, 2006
 IN THIS ISSUE
COVER STORY

How The Case Was Cracked

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Sonia's Sari Brigade

Not So Godly

Dial B For Murder

The Art Of Survival

Mulayam Hits Mafia Hard

On The Job

Limited Access

Look Before You IPO

Vetoed Out

Mistimed Maladies

Primary Bloomer

Those Aching Bones

The Strategic Triangle

Blood Brothers

Carnal Bits

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