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AIADMK seeks CBI probe into sewage treatment project

Special Correspondent

Demands Mayor’s resignation

— PHOTO: S. SIVA SARAVANAN

TUSSLE: DMK and AIADMK members lock horns over corruption charges at the Coimbatore Corporation Council meeting on Monday.

COIMBATORE: The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the Coimbatore Corporation Council demanded on Monday that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) must probe how the civic body had gone about inviting tenders and finalising them for the setting up of two sewage treatment plants, as part of the Rs.377-crore underground drainage scheme.

Alleging Rs.18 crore kickbacks, party leader in the Council P. Rajkumar demanded that Mayor R. Venkatachalam should resign as he was a party to this. The councillor insisted on a CBI inquiry as he suspected the involvement of officials in New Delhi who approved projects and bids under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. “Of two equal shares of the kickbacks, one has gone to officials and the other to some elected representatives,” he alleged.

‘Syndicate formed’

The AIADMK member said tenders for the project had been invited by specifying the kind of technology to be adopted. Stating that this was against rules, he said this created a situation where any company chosen to set up the plants would have to depend on the firm that provided this technology. Besides, a syndicate had been formed to decide who would take up the project. This defeated the very purpose of inviting competitive bids, he alleged.

Mr. Rajkumar wondered what the Mayor and the Corporation officials were doing when these charges appeared in the media. Mr. Rajkumar and Communist Party of India (Marxist) member C. Padmanabhan issued statements a week ago, alleging irregularities in the project.

“We know that a syndicate has been formed. That is why an alternative technology was not mentioned. The other bidders have been chased away and the scam involves projects for both Coimbatore and Madurai,” Mr. Rajkumar contended. “Nothing can happen in this Corporation without the knowledge of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. What is its role in the scam?”

The Mayor, a member of the Congress, said the councillor could not level baseless charges. At this point, CPI (M) member S. Velmurugan told the Mayor: “The Corporation stinks of corruption. Can you say there are no kickbacks?” The Mayor replied: “I categorically state that there is no irregularity.”

Clash

When AIADMK member M. Natarajan alleged there was a problem between the Congress and its ally, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), in sharing the kickbacks, the DMK members surrounded him and took exception to the remark. After a clash, the AIADMK members staged a walkout.

Mr. Padmanabhan sought to know why the mission projects were not taking off despite the bid process having been completed. He wanted Monday’s Council meeting put off. It should be held only after discussing the status of the mission projects, he demanded.

At this moment, the DMK sprang a surprise by demanding that the meeting be adjourned.

Party member and Leader of the Opposition V.N. Udayakumar agreed with Mr. Padmanabhan that the projects should be discussed first. He wanted to know why the drainage and Pilloor water schemes were not included in the agenda for Monday’s meeting.

The Mayor then announced a 10-minute adjournment to discuss the situation.

Urgent meeting

After returning to the Council, he announced that the meeting had been adjourned for the day.

It would be held on March 27, after an urgent meeting on the mission schemes that day.

On complaints of schemes being held up, the Mayor told presspersons after the meeting that he had sent these for auditing to check for irregularities.

“I thought of placing them in the Council when I had the audit reports also. Only then proper replies can be given to charges,” he said.

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