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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Minister’s son under cloud in Rs 9 Cr TMT bar scam

Vigilance completes investigation, files FIR against Director SPD

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Feb 28:  In order to swindle a huge amount of money for the benefit of a Minister’s son from Srinagar, senior officials of Stores and Procurement Department (SPD) have acquired Thermo Mechanically Treated (TMT) bars of steel from a Jammu-based steel manufacturer and thus caused loss of Rs 3 Crore in the contract of Rs 9 Crore to the state exchequer. State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) has filed FIR against a Chief Engineer after completing preliminary investigation into the complaint.

Highly placed authoritative sources disclosed to Early Times that the SVO in Jammu received a complaint sometime back which claimed that a Chief Engineer of Mechanical Engineering Department, then posted as Director of SPD, had issued a supply order to Jammu-based Jehlum Steel Rolling Mills and New Kashmir Rolling Steel Mills on the recommendations and interventions of a Srinagar-based politician and a Minister’s son in 2010. Director SPD, namely Mushtaq Ahmad, issued a notification through media, calling quotations for supply of a huge quantity of TMT bars.

While the grade of the steel to be procured was recorded as Fe-50 in some registers, other documents showed it as Fe-50 D. Promoter of one of the firms, namely Tarun Shingla, was reportedly a non-state subject who has, over the years, succeeded in getting Permanent Residence Certificate from Department of Revenue. While some believe that Shingla and the Minister’s son were “simply friends”, others insist that both there partners. While the former was responsible for manufacturing and procurement of steel, the young politician, according to many in the business, was a “silent partner”.

During the course of preliminary inquiry, SVO sleuths found that the Minister’s son was the main beneficiary of the money drawn on account of execution of the supply order. Initially, the order was placed for procurement worth Rs 2.50 Cr. It was, however, gradually raised to Rs 9.00 Crore. Sources insisted that the contract had given profits worth Rs 3.00 Crore to the duo.

Sources said that the Minister’s son, who had surfaced as a conduit during the preliminary inquiry, was likely to be interrogated and grilled. “If charges are established against him, he would be straightaway booked and even arrested”, a senior official at SVO said.  Quite a number of officials were nevertheless pessimistic. They maintained that the matter would be hushed up like many of similar cases in the past. They believed that SVO had failed to retain its credibility unlike CBI, NIA and other investigating agencies at the Centre mainly because it had been vulnerable to pressure and interventions from Ministers and bureaucrats. They pointed out that Chief Minister had ignored all media reports that revealed two years back that a Cabinet Minister wanted SVO to “go slow” in the infamous Gulmarg Roshni land scandal.

Interestingly, beneficiary of this particular scam happens to be the son of a Minister who accused media of “launching media trial” against the Ministers earlier this week. Sources declined to reveal his identification but said that his family’s assets were being estimated to have reached worth over Rs 50 Cr from 1996 to 2012.

 SPD is a separate organisation responsible procurement of different types of steel being used in construction of bridges, flyovers, buildings and other construction executed by R&B Department.

Sources did not reveal the irregularities observed in detail but indicated that one grade of steel had been purchased and payment had been drawn for a different grade of the metal.

TMT bars that have uniform and concentrated hardened periphery and the softer core will have the desired tensile strengths coupled with high elongation as required in seismic zones. Procurement of this form of metal is being justified in Kashmir particularly after it has been placed in a hypersensitive seismic zone.

While as former Director of SPD, Mushtaq Ahmad, was continuously not reachable, incumbent head of the organisation, Ramesh Handoo did not respond to calls from this newspaper.


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