Disequilibrium: PELF FLOWS FROM NOIDA

From anecdotal and documentary evidence placed before us, one can say without any hesitation that Noida and Greater Noida are not only the most lucrative postings anywhere in India but the centrifugal force that drive the UP government’s black economy. It is said that a winning strategy sometimes requires a sacrifice or two. King to rook two is famously known as castling. And it epitomises what ever happens in UP’s political economy. While the political pivot rests in Lucknow, its economic centrifuge comes from Noida and Greater Noida.   But back to chess lingua franca —castling is a special type of chess move. When castling, you simultaneously move your king, and one of your rooks. The king moves two squares towards a rook, and that rook moves to the square at the other side of the king. So, over the years, one finds that when investigative agencies finally crack down on errant Noida/Greater Noida milch cow officials, for better part the wealth has been amassed by the official and God alone knows how much has been transferred upstream to ministers and like. What boggles the mind and irony abounds over this is how these officials run amok creating wealth for themselves and their masters. While the incoming assault from probe agencies finally is feral, the prognosis overall is increasingly negative for the bottomless well simply doesn’t run dry, even as governments come and go. Take the most recent case of junior engineer Brijplal Singh nailed and now suspended. The emergent details are a handful: disproportionate assets worth

Rs 200 crore (channa badam for that neck of the woods), two wives with children having identical names one living with him in his Noida Sector 27 bungalow and the other tucked away in Faridabad in another bungalow, according to Income Tax officials.

Now imagine the size of the Noida Authority economy and the leakage and slippages flowing from it.  Five SUVs with identical numbers 6666, 25 properties in Noida, Faridabad, Pilkhua and Modinagar which include a hotel and a company. Extrapolate this Rs 200 crore and think of what kind of payoffs must have been made upstream and down the line. Nobody can appropriate such wealth and not share it with a powerful political cabal which is sheltering him. And this is endemic to Noida/Greater Noida Authority which can be viewed as a microcosm of corrupt India. At the very kernel of the Noida economy designated a SEZ is obviously vast swathes of land which have been distributed through a system of cronyism to builders to create wealth.

Pertinently, in late 2016, the rising heft of Noida as part of a burgeoning NCR was validated when the latest Oxford Economics data crowned the Delhi Extended Urban Agglomeration (EUA) — comprising Delhi, Guragaon, Faridabad, Noida and Ghaziabad — as India’s economic capital, with a GDP of $370 billion. Delhi EUA dislodged Mumbai EUA by a narrow margin — the former economic capital’s GDP fell short of Delhi’s by $2 billion — though Mumbai, on account of its smaller population, posts better per capita income. While there may be a host of reasons why Delhi is now the nation’s hub of economic activity, given the vast leaps the national capital region has taken in terms of improving physical infrastructure, this was also probably expected. The Noida SEZ ironically called Gautam Buddha Nagar district’s fortunes changed with Noida, which was carved out in 1976.

A fortnightly magazine in its survey stated that Noida was ranked the Best City in UP and the Best City in Housing in India in 2015. Today, Gautam Buddh Nagar is the preferred destination for the IT industry and banking, finance, pharma and media companies. A study by Assocham says the district’s advantages are its proximity to Delhi, good infrastructure, top educational institutions and skilled manpower. In terms of prosperity, Gautam Buddh Nagar is again perched at the top, mainly because of three parameters-per capita spending (rank 1), per capita GDP (rank 1) and per centage of households earning less than Rs 75,000 annually (rank 2). As for the employment rate, the district ranks 35; it ranks 19 on the parameter of bank credit per person. Gautam Buddh Nagar is closely followed by Ghaziabad. Lucknow, with a higher proportion of households earning over Rs 75,000 annually, finds itself in the third spot. This shows Noida's rising heft. Now, we can understand why repeated transgressions take place in this neck of the woods, Brijpal being the latest. In my immediate previous avatar as editor of the popular Mail Today, our investigations led to the enormous wealth that Yadav Singh had accumulated. My investigative team unearthed a staggering malaise which confounded readers and arguably helped the probe teams to draw a bead on him. CBI arrested him in February 2016. However, in May, 2017, it was revealed through an RTI response that the Akhilesh Yadav government had paid Rs 21.15 lakh as fee to senior lawyers of the Supreme Court engaged to save suspended Noida Chief Engineer Yadav Singh from facing CBI probe in graft and money laundering cases. As per the RTI information provided by Surendra Pal Singh, Special Secretary (Law), four senior lawyers were engaged by the previous Akhilesh Yadav government. Kapil Sibal was given a fee of Rs 8.80 lakh, Harish Salve Rs 5.00 lakh, Rakesh Dwivedi Rs 4.05 lakh and Dinesh Dwivedi Rs 3.30 lakh, taking the total to Rs 21.25 lakh, claimed activist Nutan Thakur citing the response to her RTI plea.

A compilation that I found of such cases...

NOIDA AUTHORITY’S ASSISTANT PROJECT ENGINEER, BRIJPAL CHAUDHURY

*A team of Income Tax department on Thursday conducted a raid on the premises of Noida Authority’s assistant project engineer, Brijpal Chaudhury.

*The IT officials conducted a search operation and scanned his house in sector 27 and seized some documents and cash from the spot. They also questioned Chaudhury and his family members in connection with a case. It is alleged Chaudhury has acquired wealth more than his legitimate income.

*The IT officials found that Chaudhury also owns houses in Sector 50 and 51. Two separate teams also conducted inspection on those premises and recovered some documents.

*The IT department is also scanning his bank accounts and the money transaction over a period of time. Chaudhury had joined the government services as junior engineer in 1981. Chaudhury was also the president of Noida Employees Association in early ’90s and is known for strong political and social networks.

OTHER PROMINENT SUCH CASES OF NOIDA

YADAV SINGH CASE

*Singh was engineer-in-chief of the Noida Authority, Greater Noida Authority and Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority in Uttar Pradesh. Raids conducted by the Income Tax Department in November 2014 revealed that Singh owned huge property disproportionate to his known sources of income. Singh was arrested for acquiring assets disproportionate to his income between 2002 and 2014 and his links with SP and BSP leaders are being probed.

*He was suspended by the Uttar Pradesh government in February 2015 and one-member judicial commission to probe into the multi-crore case set up by the state government. He was arrested in February 2016.

*The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered FIRs against Singh, for allegedly misusing his official position for awarding contracts in violation of norms.

*The CBI chargesheet makes a startling revelation on how Yadav, a son of a government civil contractor, did not have a BTech degree until 18 years of his service but continued to have a free run in Noida during the successive SP and BSP governments.

*The chargesheet goes into details of Singh’s qualification, saying: “Investigation revealed that Yadav Singh did his BTech in electrical engineering from Jamia University, Okhla in 1996-97, MTech in electrical engineering from Jamia University in 2006-07 and PhD from the same institution in 2013. He also did his LLB from Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut in 2010-11.”

*Incidentally, Singh worked as a modest lighting inspector after securing a diploma in electrical engineering in 1979. He then began his Noida stint as junior engineer (electrical) in 1989. According to CBI, Singh’s family has acquired 44 properties including several shops, plots, agricultural land in Agra, Noida, Greater Noida, Delhi, Nainital and Ghaziabad.

*The chargesheet has pegged the expenditure of the family between 2004 and 2015 at Rs 13.31 crore and total income at Rs 4.51crore. The CBI has disclosed that the family had disproportionate assets (DA) of Rs 23.15 crore, nearly 512 times their total income in the 10 years.

NEERA YADAV CORRUPTION CASE

*The Supreme Court in August 2017 upheld the conviction of former Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Neera Yadav in the 1994 land allocation scam for illegally allocating plots to herself and her two daughters during her tenure as chairperson and CEO of Noida.

*FIR was lodged against Yadav and others on the direction of SC which on January 20, 1998 directed CBI to conduct probe against her for abusing her position in allotment and conversion of plots in her and her daughters’ name.

*It was alleged that she entered into a criminal conspiracy with 1983-batch IAS officer, Rajiv Kumar, then deputy chief executive officer, Noida, to change land use of a plot which was earmarked for a guesthouse and also increased its area in violation of norms.

*It was also alleged that she got two plots allotted in the names of her two daughters, knowing full well that rules in Noida permitted only one plot of land to one family.

The malfeasance is obviously deep rooted with linkages right to the top. In February this year, CAG sought details of all the board meetings that have taken place in NOIDA (the New Okhla industrial development authority) since 1976. CAG had started its audit into the functioning of Noida authority on November 21, 2017.

The Uttar Pradesh government had in 1976 established the New Okhla industrial development authority with an aim to acquire agricultural land from farmers to set up industries. Noida authority, which functions under the UP Industrial Act, 1976, was formed as an autonomous body to take quick decisions to fast track industrial and infrastructure projects. Since 1976, the Noida authority board takes all its important policy decisions and has top bureaucrats as its members.

“The CAG has sought details of all agendas that have been approved in the board meetings since 1976. We are providing all details sought by the CAG for audit purposes,” Manmohan Singh, financial controller of the Noida authority, said. Power and pelf flow from Noida and Greater Noida in UP.  Allegations of last scale corruption in the land deals in Noida and Greater Noida spanning the two previous Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) regimes have abounded with the Yadav Singh case being a spectacular headline chaser for kickbacks, payoffs, instituional graft and award of land deals in contravention of rules.

(sandeep.bamzai@mydigitalfc.com)

Columnist: 
Sandeep Bamzai