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Opposition Parties in Assam Demand Probe into Corruption Allegations Related to Flyover Inauguration

Allegations suggest that due process was not followed in awarding contracts. Public money was spent on the high-profile event, which may have favoured a close business associate of CM’s immediate family.
Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: The opposition parties in Assam have demanded a probe, alleging corruption in giving contracts linked to a flyover in Guwahati. On the occasion of Diwali, November 4, 2021, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma inaugurated a two-lane flyover in Guwahati. The high-profile event received a lot of media attention.

A visibly happy Himanta declared that the Rs 127 crore flyover had been completed before the deadline. “The completion of the work in 22 months against the scheduled 36 months reflects our government’s utmost effort to speed up infrastructure growth,” said the chief minister.

Terming Guwahati the gateway to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Congress leader-turned-BJP chief minister said under his leadership, the state government has committed to sticking to deadlines on infrastructure projects to evade cost overruns and giving people a taste of ‘development’.

Companies Connected to CM’s Family

However, according to a report published in The Wire, Right to Information (RTI), replies around this inauguration event accessed by The Crosscurrent and The Wire paint a somewhat different picture. The documents prove that even standard operational procedures for government contracts were not followed while organising the event.

In addition, the event was made possible by spending a sizeable sum of public money. This expenditure may have favoured a close business associate of the chief minister’s immediate family. Sarma is also the Public Works Department (PWD) minister, and this department had floated the tender for organising the inauguration event.

Interestingly, the report mentions that RTI replies from the Sarma administration reveal that while the mega inaugural ceremony was held on November 4, 2021, the Assam state authorities issued tenders in newspapers seeking bids from local contractors to carry out preparatory work for the flyover only five months later.

The advertisement was published in local dailies on March 9, 2022 – more than four months after the event on November 5, 2021. 

The March 9 advertisement sought bids for the flyover inaugural event within 15 days; the last date to receive bids was March 18, 2022. The post-dated work orders were issued on May 2, 2022.

As per details shared through an RTI reply with The Crosscurrent, this tender (already flouting due process) received responses from two Guwahati-based business houses – M/s JMK Construction and Supplier and Dreams A-Maze – as well as from a contractor, Anjan Sarma. In a strange coincidence, the address cited by all three bidders was from the same area – Kamakhya Dham, Guwahati.

Yet another notable fact is that the individual bidder – Anjan Sarma – and the owners of the two other entities – Jugananda Sarma (JMK Construction) and Bhaskar Sarma (Dream A-Maze) – are, in fact, business associates. The three are co-directors of another business entity: M/S Assam Chemists Distributors Pvt. Ltd.

According to the report, as per the RTI replies, the PWD granted the post-dated work to M/S Dream A-Maze. The firm is owned by Guwahati-based Bhaskar Sarma, who has links to businesses involving the chief minister’s immediate family. In all, the PWD ministry issued three work orders to Bhaskar’s firm.

Opposition Demands Probe

The Congress, Raijor Dal and Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) demanded a high-level investigation into the allegations related to the SuperMarket flyover.

“The Super Market flyover was inaugurated on November 4, 2021, by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, and as per media reports, over Rs 45 lakh was spent for only the inauguration ceremony. But the tender for the inauguration programme was invited almost five months after the flyover was officially inaugurated, and the work order was given to the contractor after seven months,” Congress spokesperson Manjit Mahanta alleged, addressing a press conference.

He alleged that the firm awarded the contract was linked to Sarma’s family. “We demand a high-level inquiry into it,” Mahanta said.

Raijor Dal vice-president Rasel Hussain said the Enforcement Directorate (ED) should probe the allegation if “they have courage”.

“The PWD is under the chief minister. We don’t want anybody to point fingers at our chief minister. But if such significant allegations are levelled at his department and family members, what hope do we have? We demand an independent investigation into these allegations,” he added.

According to a PTI report published in East Mojo, AJP spokesperson Ziaur Rahman said it is shocking that the tender was invited five months after the work was completed. “Only an independent probe by a sitting high court judge can find the truth, and that is our demand,” he said.

No comments have been issued by the state BJP spokespersons and the Chief Minister’s Office.

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