ITANAGAR, Jul 4: The Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) claimed that former Lower Subansiri Deputy Commissioner Kemo Lollen, along with DLRSO Bharat Lingu, businessman Likha Maj and others benefited from the multi-crore Trans-Arunachal Highway (TAH) scam under the patronage of Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein.
Rs 40 crore had been sanctioned for the construction of the Joram to Koloriang stretch of the TAH, funded by the Centre through its agency NHIDCL.
Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, APCC assessment committee chairman Tamchi Tahar said that Lollen had issued a notification for the land owners on 4 January, 2018, regarding a meeting held with the deputy chief minister on 11 January, 2017.
According to the notification, the house under the deputy chief minister had reduced the Right of Way (RoW) from 24 mts to 14 mts in total in the urban centres under Lower Subansiri district for the construction of the TAH.
Tahar alleged that the former DC had showed the decision of the deputy chief minister in the form of the notice and coaxed and instilled fear in the land owners.
“We want Chief Minister Pema Khandu to answer how his deputy acquired the right to reduce the length of the RoW”, said Tahar and demanded that the deputy chief minister, who also holds the portfolio of PWD, Planning and Finance, be dropped from the cabinet.
Reacting to the Congress allegations, Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein informed this daily that the allegations were baseless as the decision to reduce the RoW was taken with committee members, which included the PWD chief engineer, design and planning team, all officers of the department, including law officers.
“The decision was taken collectively under my chairmanship as several standing structures would be demolished. To avoid large-scale demolition, the decision was taken by the committee and was not my sole decision.
On whether such a decision could be initiated by the government, Mein informed that the decision was taken under the Arunachal Pradesh Road Regulation and Development Act, 2015, and is completely legal.
“As per the act, it is permissible to reduce the breadth of the road in urban areas. The Congress party has no reason to blame the minister concerned. In fact, we have reduced the compensation amount and saved the government’s money.
Also, according to the Indian Road Congress, road specification is a guideline and not an act adopted by the parliament, and the specifications can be modified.
“Why is the Congress trying to put the blame on us for reducing the compensation amount? They should instead be happy that we have saved government money and several standing structures”, added Mein.
Meanwhile, the APCC assessment team had also met with beneficiaries and land owners situated from Potin to Ziro on 1 July and said that the meet revealed several lapses on the Rs 40 crore Joram to Koloriang (20 to 50 Km) TAH.
Citing the example of a few beneficiaries, the committee informed that one Bengia Tach was to receive an amount of Rs 34, 73, 369 under the Detailed Project Report (DPR), but was offered Rs 15, 29,000, which is half of the amount. Similarly, one Joram Tabia had to receive Rs 19, 93,600 according to the DPR, but was offered merely Rs 7,000, while one Neelam Meena was to receive DPR amount of Rs 11, 58,780, but was offered Rs 2,000 only.
These persons and several other land owners later refused to accept the compensation amount.
The committee pointed out that Likha Api, wife of Yachuli MLA Likha Saaya was to receive an amount of Rs 82, 77, 600 according to the DPR, but was offered an extra amount of over Rs 20,000, and the amount was rounded off to Rs 83, 00,000.
Also questioning the silence of the three legislators of Lower Subansiri and Kamle districts- Tage Taki, Likha Saaya and Tamer Murtem-the APCC claimed of their involvement in the scam as well, and sought an inquiry against them as well.
Seeking a CBI inquiry into the scam, APCC Secretary, Bem Maching said that “the constitution of the Special Investigation Cell (SIC) is a gimmick to fool the people into believing that the government has taken action against corrupt activities, when in fact, the government itself is involved in the corruption”.
It further demanded re-assessment of all the DPR amounts and called on the chief minister to pay the beneficiaries on the spot as per DPR, if he is not involved in the scam.
“If the state government fails to comply with the demands, the people and the Indian National Congress will start a democratic movement against the government”, the APCC added.
On 3 June, former Lower Subansiri Deputy Commissioner Kemo Lollen, former DLRSO Bharat Lingu, and prominent businessman Likha Maj were arrested for their alleged involvement in gross irregularities in the matter of payment of compensation against the Joram-Koloriang TAH project in Lower Subansiri district.
Apart from the Joram to Koloriang (From 20 to 50 Km) stretch of the Trans-Arunachal Highway (TAH), the governor of Arunachal Pradesh has also ordered the fact finding enquiry committee to carry out a thorough inquiry in respect to the second stretch of Potin to Bopi (About 105 Km) TAH in Lower Subansiri district.
Similar allegations of irregularities, illegalities in the assessment and disbursement of compensation of land acquisition have been levelled against the double-lane Potin to Bopi stretch of TAH.
Rs 188 crore has been sanctioned for the construction of the Potin to Bopi TAH.
In an order dated 28 June, 2018, the committee has been directed to submit the report to the government as per the prescribed time line immediately.