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‘Congress has dug its own grave by making it an issue against the locals’

THE ASIAN AGE. | SANJIB KR BARUAH
Published : Dec 18, 2016, 2:10 am IST
Updated : Dec 18, 2016, 7:34 am IST

The Congress now realises that they have made a mistake, says Kiren Rijiju.

Kiren Rijiju, Union minister of state for home. (Photo: G.N. JHA)
 Kiren Rijiju, Union minister of state for home. (Photo: G.N. JHA)

Kiren Rijiju, Union minister of state for home affairs, remains unflappable amidst allegations that he facilitated a scam centering on construction of two dams for NEEPCO’s 600-MW Kameng hydro-electric project in Arunachal Pradesh. Mr Rijiju spoke to Sanjib Kr Baruah about the secretly-recorded conversation that led to the controversy.

Your name has been recently linked to Arunachal Pradesh’s Kameng-NEEPCO dam project where a person named Goibi Rijiju had approached an official seeking clearance of certain pending payments and he has been audio-taped saying that his “Bhaiya” would suitably return the favour if needed. What do you have to say?

Now even as we speak the Congress MPs and local Congress leaders in Arunachal Pradesh, specially the Congress panchayat leaders are blaming the Congress high command of the grave mistake of raising this issue. And the Congress is already paying the price now because its local leaders are no longer interested in staying in the party. They realise that the Congress is working against the interest of the local people.

There are rumblings of corrupt dealings…

There is no question of corruption because the local people are supplying and providing boulders and sand to construct a dam. It is not huge transportation of construction material and other items; it is just a small-time supply of boulders and sand which is being done by thousands of local people. The money they get from it is their bread and butter.

When did this project start?

This project started in 2004 and the civil contract was awarded in 2004 when the Congress was in power. These so-called local contractors were appointed in 2012, again during Congress rule. Most of the payments were already made before I wrote a letter. So it was a bogey. The Congress now realises that they have made a mistake. Congress workers are now leaving the party. Local panchayat leaders have come out openly and have condemned the Congress’ shameful act.

And about the claims of the chief vigilance officer (CVO) of NEEPCO?

What I don’t understand is that even a national publication has used the word “scam”. One should be careful about using such words. Suppose I have recommended in a letter and some Rs 2-3 crore payment were made, then you can still accuse me and say that because of my recommendation some people got money. But in this case, it is zero. Even before I wrote the letter, the pending bills were cleared. The same CVO who wrote the report had cleared all the payments before I had even written the letter.

About 60 per cent payment was had already been made. The contractors came to me with about 40 per cent pending payment. But 10 days before I had written the letter, the payments were all cleared because the same CVO found that the pending bills were alright.

So you mean to say there is no issue?

It is a non-issue and the Congress has dug its own grave by making it an issue against the local people.

Do you think the CVO report was politically motivated?

I will not even call it politically motivated because the same CVO who had written these backdated fraudulently is the same officer who cleared the bills. He himself had visited the location, he himself had cleared all the bills. The pending bills were cleared after the same CVO gave the clearance. So tell me now how can an issue be made out of this? It is not even shameful, it is some kind of a joke.

Nor am I bothered as to who is behind this. But what we can apprehend is that some people in the Congress might have just told the CVO to write a letter and then telling him that an issue will be made out of it as because the AgustaWestland issue was coming up. The Congress must have searched the country to look for an officer who could have written a cooked-up report. It found this particular officer (CVO) and then made him write a letter after he was transferred.

This officer will now be held to question for his fraudulently backdating documents, the dates of which are available in the postage stamps. But this story has been exposed now.

Your reaction has also been quite acidic...

Those people who raised this bogey against the poor people, they will be beaten with shoes by the poor people in Arunachal is what I said.

Is Goibi Rijiju your cousin?

Goibi is from my village and he is not even a contractor. Nor has he supplied boulders and sand. He just went to the officer and pleaded for the village. Goibi referred to “Bhaiya”. Everybody in my place calls me “Bhaiya”. So he said we’ll tell “Bhaiya” so please help us. Goibi is not asking for a favour, he is asking for his right. Rights which are due to the people. He is not seeking false payments. Also, how can I be held responsible for someone who says “Bhaiya”? The officer then recorded their conversation. Don’t you think if the CVO had a genuine case, he should have sent the report to his mother agency and not to the Congress and to the newspaper?

A group of contractors came to me and I wrote a letter to the power ministry to examine the matter. I did not say make the payment.

Reportedly a transport scam has been going on in Arunachal for quite some time now?

Yes, the hill transport subsidy is a big scam. The court is looking into it; I don’t have much to comment. I just want it to be expedited.

There are reports of money being taken to the Northeast in the backdrop of demonetisation?

While the Reserve Bank of India has been sending money to all parts of the country, a case has come to light about money having gone from Hissar to Nagaland’s Dimapur in an aeroplane. Now a local person has come forward to claim that it is his money.

So as long he can show his source of income the case is a settled one and legal action cannot be taken.

Mamata Banerjee has alleged that the principles of federalism have been violated because an FBI team from the US has been allowed free and unhindered access to a jailed terrorist in West Bengal?

Not at all. Everything is under the established law. If there is anything wrong let it be challenged in a court of law. We should not question all the time just because you have a political angle to it.

We are very clear that we are living in a democracy and a federal structure and it has to be respected by all means. Never should the federal structure be breached.

Tags: kiren rijiju, mamata banerjee, goibi rijiju