Cong Accuses Malkangiri Collector Of Corruption, Seeks Probe Into Stone Quarries Tender Fixing
Pradip Majhi Threatens Stir from July 4 If Demands Not Met
Malkangiri: The Congress on Tuesday accused Malkangiri collector Yeddula Vijay of perpetrating corruption in connivance with a mining firm and demanded his suspension as well as criminal action him and other officers involved in wrongdoing. Vijay termed the allegations as ‘baseless’.
At a press conference, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee working president Pradip Madhi alleged that Andhra Pradesh’s C H Venugopal, proprietor of VG Granites situated at Peta village in Motu tehsil, has been illegally exporting precious granite to China in connivance with some government officers of Malkangiri. The district administration has “illegally” awarded Venugopal lease for seven stone quarries by manipulating the tender process of Minor Mineral Sources (Sairat) held in March, he said.
The former MP said going by the state government’s norms the concerned tehsildar is the competent authority to invite tenders for stone quarries. But in this instance the collector’s office in March notified floating of tender and the collector then personally ensured the concerned tehsildars signed on the documents.
“On March 20, the last date for filing the tender, the collector’s steno and nizarat officer sealed the tender boxes in the presence of some officers, bidders and their agents in the collector’s chamber at 5.30 pm. The sealed tender boxes were supposed to be shifted to the district treasury’s strong room,” Majhi said.
“Though it was said that the collector was absent during the entire process, information collected through RTI says the sealed tender boxes were kept in the district treasury at about 1.40 pm on March 23 after the collector put his signature,” Majhi said. “This makes it evident the tender boxes were taken to the collector’s residence and kept there for three days. The collector opened the sealed boxes and manipulated the tender papers in favour of Venugopal, enabling the latter bag all seven stone quarries with a margin difference in royalty value of Rs 40 to Rs 50,” the Congress leader alleged.
Majhi also pointed out that the administration did not properly assess Venugopal’s solvency status, which is mandatory before leasing out stone quarries or any mines. He referred to the Odisha government’s rules and said the revenue inspector is authorized to determine the valuation of land after obtaining the market value of land from the sub-registrar and valuation of building either from the executive engineer, assistant executive engineer or assistant engineer. “But it is strange how the revenue inspector and tehsildar of Motu assessed Venugopal’s land to be worth Rs 1.59 lakh and his building’s worth Rs 4.98 crore without any documents from the concerned authorities. And, also how could they recommend the Malkangiri sub-collector to issue a solvency certificate of Rs 1 crore in favour of Venugopal?” he asked.
“Even the kisam (category) of land in Venugopal’s possession, going by the report of the revenue inspector and the record of rights (ROR), is dangar-II and paddy-II. Then without conversion of the land to gharabari (homestead) category, how could he construct a building on it?” Majhi asked.
The Congress leader noted that taking into account the minimum guaranteed quantity of royalty and additional charges offered by Venugopal for the seven stone quarries, he must be solvent for at least Rs 2.39 crore. “But he submitted a solvency certificate of only Rs 1 crore at the time of filing his lease application. The question is, how and why the collector could accord lease approval to Venugopal in contravention of government guidelines,” he stated.
Majhi further alleged that Vijay received Rs one crore and an expensive vehicle as bribe from Venugopal. “The administration neither owns nor hired the vehicle the collector uses. The government rules do not allow any collector to use such an expensive vehicle. The vehicle is registered in the name of a Bhubaneswar-based woman. It was registered on March 31, a day after the tenders were finalised,” he said.
On his part, Vijay refuted the allegations, terming those as baseless. He told journalists the tender was finalised by following due procedure, but admitted he kept the tender box at home. “I took the tender box home because of security concerns at my office,” he said, admitting he was using the expensive vehicle. Ï hired the vehicle after my car broke down,” he maintained.
Majhi threatened to launch an agitation in Malkangiri from July 4 if the government does not meet his demands.