By Javid Zargar
Feeling embarrassed on the series of news stories in Print and electronic media on the multi-crore Sand extraction Scandal in Irrigation and Flood Control division Sumbal, authorities in the department have finally swung into action after remaining in slumber for many months ordering a high level enquiry into the allegations of causing more than five crore rupees loss to state exchequer which was due to department on the pretext of ‘allotted’ shoal extraction in the division.
Concerned over the allegations, the Chief Engineer has also decided to stop all kinds of permissions for extraction in the division until the contractors deposit full amount to the department. There may be a huge revamp of the division with many ‘corrupt’ and tainted officials being shown the door.
The series of actions have come after MLA Sonawari accused the Executive Engineer and other officers and officials of the division for ‘turning brokers’ and causing huge loss to the state exchequer besides endangering the life of people by damaging the river banks owing to ‘illegal’ sand extraction.
Following the allegations, District Superintending Engineer, Hydraulic Circle Sopore has ordered an enquiry and constituted a high level committee asking them to undertake an on spot inspection of the sites and submit a report within three days,
The committee would be headed by executive Engineer I&FC division Baramulla whereas Assistant Executive Engineer ISD Pattan , AEE, FC Sub Division Sopore and Junior Engineer I&FC Division Sopore would be its members.
Sources in the department said that nearly five crore rupees have been left ‘unaccounted’ on account of sand extraction charges and there was no GR issued to these pavements. The documents reveal that the conditions of the allotments made by Chief Engineer on accounts of bids were flouted by the division authorities allegedly to make ‘money’.
As per the allotments made by Chief Engineer I&FC after floating tenders nearly four lakh cum of shoal was extracted from Jehlum and other Nallahs in Sumbal division during 2015-16 for which bidders had to deposit 310.00 Lakhs .
However, the GR is available for only 131.00 lakhs and the rest of the amount stands ‘unaccounted’. Nobody knows whether the contractors were allowed to lift the material without paying the full amount or the authorities failed to reflect it in GR and other accounts.
Pertinently the Chief Engineer has categorically authorized the extraction subject to the condition of full payment of charges in advance and in one go.
In the year 2016-17, the allotments were made for one lakh cum for which bidders had to deposit 377.00 lakh to the department before the execution of work. However, according to sources, only 31.00 lakh rupees have been deposited whereas the rest of 447.00 lacs stand missing.
In the year 2017-18 twenty thousand cum have been allotted for which the bidders had to deposit 32.00 lakhs but the actual deposit in the division is 10.00 lakh, the rest of the 22.00 lakhs is still outstanding.
Sources said that from 2015 up to this date, allotments were made for a total amount of 725.00 lakhs, out of which only 172 .00 Lakh rupees have been deposited in the treasury which forms only 24 percent of the total amount the department was entitled to on account of shoal extraction allotted on tenders.
Sources said that five crore fifty three lakh rupees have been allegedly ‘misused and swindled’ in the division . There are also allegations of huge illegal extraction in various areas like Shadipora, Batapora, Shilwat Narian Bagh, Near Shilwat Ziyarat Shareef, Sheikhzoo Hakbara, Nani Nar, Asham Nallah, Downstream Shadipora bridge, and Nalah Inder Khan. Sources said that the river bund opposite Ziyarat Shareef Shilwat was allegedly damaged by the illegal extraction under the supervision of the division authorities and now is being erected again on government exchequer.
Meanwhile, Senior National Conference leader and MLA Sonawari accused People’s Democratic Party PDP of patronizing the ‘corrupt ‘ officers and said that the river stretch in Sumbal Division has been badly damaged owing to ‘illegal eructation of shoal’. He said he will soon launch a campaign on the issue and may also approach to Governor.
The Chief Engineer of the department Mohammad Shahnawaz said that all the allotments for shoal extraction issued by him in the division have been withheld and bidders have been asked to deposit the charges first. He however defended the Executive Engineer and said that a question regarding the same had recently come from State Assembly following which all the GR books and records were brought to his office.
He added that all the GRs issued were matched with the treasury receipts and other documents which were found intact and there was no such discrepancy found. The Chief Engineer however, said that it is possible that contractors have not paid the full amount and if anyone has any doubt regarding the officers and officials of the division, he must come up with an application and department would hold an enquiry.
It is however, pertinent to mention that as per the NIT, the Executive Engineer has to receive 100% payments before allowing the contractor to execute the work. In this particular division only 24 % amount has been shown to have been deposited in the division since 2015 leaving behind more than five and a half crore “untraceable’.
Meanwhile District Superintending Engineer Hydraulic Division Sopoe G.A Gojri said that since he has recently joined as SE therefore doesn’t not know much about the alleged ‘scam’. But added, that since the allegations were serious in nature, therefore a committee headed by Executive Engineer rank officer has been constituted who would visit the spots and scrutinize the records and submit the report within three days.
He however, added that no one ‘if involved’ should be spared and stern disciplinary action would follow if the report indicted any on the officer or official.
When asked why allegedly many communications were being sent directly to Chief Engineer by by-passing his office, he said , he is not aware of the facts if any communication was directly sent to Chief Office while by-passing his office, but added if the case was so, action will follow.
(With inputs from KNS)