By Rajesh Ahuja
IF MORE proof were needed that the CBI dances to the tune of the powers-that-be, this is it. Instead of catching the big fish in the NOIDA land scam of 2005, in which a ‘computerised’ draw allotted plots to relatives of top judges, babus and netas, the CBI has chargesheeted two minor players in this drama for destroying evidence and creating false records. The big people for whom they did this favour have been left untouched.
The New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA) had conducted a ‘computerised draw’ for allotment of 1,250 residential plots in various sectors of Noida on 2 July 2005. When the list of successful candidates came out, most plots in posh sectors were allotted to high-profile persons or their relatives in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The list includes politicians, bureaucrats and influential journalists. The names of some high-profile allottees have been in public domain for long: Sheeba Sabharwal, daughter-in-law of former Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal, wives of former Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh and IAS officer D Diptivilas, as also of the then SSP, Noida and DM, Ghaziabad.
TEHELKA has now obtained access to the damning details. The ‘random’ computerised draw shows candidates with consecutive application numbers being allotted plots. Two-thirds of them applied belatedly, during a 15-day extension of deadline. Some appear to be related, going by the surnames. At least six persons had given the Flex Industries office as their address. Even their margin money came from the personal account of Ashok Chaturvedi, CMD of Flex Industries. TEHELKA could not reach Chaturvedi for comments despite repeated attempts.
Surprisingly, the CBI did not examine most of the successful applicants. It did not arrest a single person in the case. According to details available with TEHELKA, even the Allahabad High Court, while ordering the CBI probe, had raised questions about the award of contract for the computerised draw to an obscure undertaking — Uttar Pradesh Development System Corporation (UPDESCO) — ignoring the bid by Tata Consultancy Services. The authorities were forced to cancel the draw after an outcry.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court stayed the CBI investigation on 11 November 2005 on the appeal of the Noida Authority. The stay remained in force as long as Mulayam Singh was CM (till 11 May 2007). Then Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party took over. She instructed Noida Authority to withdraw its appeal from the Supreme Court.
In January 2008, the CBI raided 20 places in Lucknow, Noida, Ghaziabad and Meerut. These were residential and official premises of some officers belonging to the Noida administration and UPDESCO. However, this was the juncture when relations between the UPA government and the Left were under strain on the civilian nuclear deal. The support of the Samajwadi Party became crucial for the UPA government. Accordingly, the pace of the CBI investigation into the case slowed. But then again, prior to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the CBI started collecting information. Sources say this was because the government wanted some kind of ‘leverage’ over the Samajwadi Party.
The end-result is that in the chargesheet filed quietly in a Ghaziabad court, two persons — Rama Shankar Singh, a manager of the UPDESCO and Alok Singh Chauhan, a software consultant — have been made scapegoats. The two stand accused of manipulating data and creating ‘false evidence’.