Madhya Pradesh’s BJP government has blacklisted two companies – allegedly ties to party leaders – for building a dam on the Karam River, which has been the focus of a near-disaster in the district over the past week. Dhar, have not completed. This project, which has passed its one-year deadline, is also at the center of a corruption scam.
The Rs 113 crore dam is part of the larger irrigation plan – worth Rs 304 crore in total – which includes canals.
At the very least, the blacklist means that these two companies – Delhi’s ANS Construction and Gwalior’s Sarthi Construction – are no longer eligible for government contracts. However, there are allegations that these companies were also previously blacklisted, only to get projects again. The government has not responded.
Work for the dam was awarded to ANS in 2018 for Rs 113 crore. This company immediately hired Gwalior company Sarthi for it, for less than Rs 100 crore. This subcontract to Sarthi had the necessary approval from the government.
Cracks in the partially constructed dam showed on August 11, incidentally two days after the extended deadline had also passed. The work that started in 2018 should be completed by August last year. Extension was given until August 9 this year.
A probe is now underway to determine responsibility for the dam succumbing to pressure in the reservoir after heavy rainfall.
Thousands of people from 18 villages had to be evacuated for fear of flooding. Emergency channels were dug to drain the water and save the day. Flooding was averted, but whatever was built of the dam was washed away in the process.
The incident brought back attention to an ongoing, wider investigation into the Rs 3,000 crore e-tendering scam. This project is one of the projects under investigation, the government said in the meeting.
Congress claims that Sarthi’s promoter was the “mastermind” who designed Congress’ MLAs in 2020, leading to the fall of the then government of Kamal Nath. He did not respond immediately. But the BJP has denied any ties, as has its senior minister Narottam Mishra, who held the Water Resources portfolio when the work was assigned in 2018.
Initially, a Gujarat-based company was awarded the contract in 2018, when the previous BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan was in power. That was canceled as the company’s name came up in the e-tendering scam. A probe began. However, no case was registered.
Meanwhile, Delhi’s ANS Construction got the job, which it further gave to Sarthi.
All of this happened just weeks before the 2018 elections, when the BJP lost power after 15 years.
When Congress under Kamal Nath came to power, a police case was finally registered in 2019. He estimated the losses at Rs 3,000 crore.
It could be higher. The system has been in existence since 2014 which means that the shadow of the scam is running across dozens of tenders for nearly Rs 3 lakh crore.
But the investigation has not progressed much since Shivraj Singh Chouhan succeeded in overthrowing the Congress government in March 2020. The police have booked officials from a number of companies that have been awarded the tenders. Two IT companies carrying out the work have also been blamed.
The police came closest to dealing with political parties when they arrested two secretaries of Minister Narottam Mishra, who now has the powerful portfolio of Home Affairs. These secretaries, who were released on bail, remain at his post. He has denied any connection to the scam, saying in the past, “They started the game. We’ll finish it,” in a reference to Congress.
Tulsi Silavat, who is currently Minister of Water Resources, said yesterday: “There is no truth to the claim that BJP leaders are close to the company building the dam.”
But he added: “It doesn’t matter who was here before me. All I know is that I will not spare the guilty, even if they belong to our party. I want the truth to come out in the e-tendering scam.”