Gomti River Front probe: Rahul Bhatnagar is under pressure
Lucknow: The present Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar, of late, has been among the controversies but managed to save his chair despite change of guard in the state. The proposed action in Rs 1513 crore-Gomti river front project, however, spells problems for him.
Rahul Bhatnagar has been seen as targeting his predecessor Alok Ranjan for alleged irregularities in much-talked about project but the fresh development may rap him in the probe, if ordered as per the committee headed by Urban Development Minister Suresh Khanna.
The Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath , immediately after taking over the reins of the state, had ordered judicial inquiry into river front project by a retired High Court judge Alok Singh. The judicial committee, in its findings, had said the former Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan along with others was responsible for poor monitoring but rather surprisingly , given clean chit to Rahul Bhatnagar who, in fact, had cleared the financial sanction as head of the Expenditure Finance Committee during Akhilesh Yadav regime.
Now since, the four-pronged recommendations of the Khanna committee, set up for suggesting next action on the basis of Alok Singh committee report, included CBI probe into criminal involvement and financial bunglings with regards to project.
The recommendations of Khanna committee comprised of FIR against the engineers who were indulged in financial bungling, the CBI probe into criminal acts, departmental action into laxity in monitoring or shortcomings in task force/monitoring committee functioning during execution of the project. It also suggested to complete the project by spending least possible money.
If according to a single page note of the CM Yogi on Khanna report, the CBI will probe only those matters where the criminal intent was noticed or some financial irregularities had taken place. In such scenario, both Alok ranjan and Rahul Bhatnagar are out of the CBI probe but as far as the monitoring lapse is concerned, Rahul will find it hard to escape the department action.
Rahul Bhatnagar, in the dual capacity of Principal Secretary ,Finance and Chief Secretary , could be held responsible for poor monitoring. In such case also, Rahul will have to leave the post of Chief Secretary because no officer can probe him by virtue of being in the top chair.
Moreover, Deepak Singhal, the former Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary of Irrigation, the nodal department to execute river front project, and Alok ranjan had got all the sanctions passed by the state Cabinet.In this way also, Rahul Bhatnagar will have a tough time defending himself.
Khanna committee also targets the other officers who were part of the task force, set up to oversee the project,. Such officers included the then Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary (irrigation) Deepak Singhal, Principal Secretaries of Urban Development and Housing departments, the then Secretary of Irrigation, the then Divisional Commissioner and DM of Lucknow, the then Engineer-in-chief of irrigation. Chief Engineer (Sharda Sahayak) and the then MD of UP Jal Nigam.