The Congress on Wednesday cited Comptroller and Auditor General reports on several irregularities under the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rule to question Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on the matter.
The Opposition party accused the Modi government of being involved in “seven scams” allegedly amounting to hundreds of crores.
The party flagged irregularities raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the Bharatmala project, the construction of Dwarka Expressway, violation of toll rules by the National Highways Authority of India, the Ayushman Bharat Scheme and alleged undue advantage to the contractors in the Ayodhya Development Project.
The ministries of health and road transport, however, have refuted the claims made in the reports.
“Will you [Modi] break your silence on the scams that are being unearthed by CAG right under your nose?” Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate asked. “You are the chairman of the CCEA [Cabinet Committee on Economy Affairs], are you going to open your mouth on the Bharatmala project, where the cost of construction has doubled from 15.37 crore per km to over 32 crore per km.”
On the Bharatmala project, Centre’s flagship road development scheme, Shrinate alleged that the tender process for the project was also flawed.
“There was never a detailed project report that was submitted,” she said. “Money to the tune of Rs 3,500 crore was diverted from the escrow account and more than anything else, safety consultants were not appointed.”
The Congress spokesperson also alleged that irregularities in the Dwarka expressway project on the Delhi-Gurugram border increased its budget from the originally-approved amount of Rs 18.2 crore per km to Rs 251 crore per km. She alleged that this was done to include a 2 km of elevated carriageway on the Haryana portion of the expressway.
In its audit report, the Comptroller and Auditor General had said that the National Highways Authority of India’s decision to go for an elevated carriageway on the Haryana portion of the expressway pushed the “civil construction cost by 14 times”.
“[At this cost] a Mangalyaan [Mars orbiter mission] could have gone...Rs 500 crore is what it took,” Shrinate said. “The NHAI [National Highways Authority of India] has looted common citizens of this country to the tune of Rs 132 crore, only when five toll plazas were audited. Imagine if every toll plaza in this country is audited, what would the tune of this scam be?”
The party also cited the Comptroller and Auditor General report that flagged that nearly 7.5 lakh beneficiaries of the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana are registered under a single cellphone number – 9999999999.
The Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana is the central government’s flagship scheme for health insurance for poor people.
“Seven and a half lakh beneficiaries, registered with one phone number, but that’s not all, over 88,000 such patients, who died during the treatment, fresh claims were issued and payments were made in their name,” Shrinate said. “Who did that money go to? That’s the big question.”
On the irregularities in the Ayodhya development project in Uttar Pradesh, the party pointed out that money was issued to non-registered contractors.
“Money has been issued to contractors, who are not even registered, there is a GST [Goods and Services Tax] payment that’s coming their way,” Shrinate said. “Who are the people? What are they doing? How come the bidders, the tendering process is so flawed?”
Shrinate also said that the Rural Development Ministry diverted pensions for the poor, physically disabled, widows and senior citizens to put hoardings promoting the Swachh Bharat campaign in 19 states.
She added that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has also been pulled up for a flawed engine design, which led to the loss of about Rs 154 crore.
“This is looting the exchequer; this is looting the people of India and action should be taken,” she said. “But before action is taken, the prime minister needs to tell this country, why are people, being allowed to take undue benefits of schemes meant for the poor, meant for the physically challenged, meant for the old and also meant for widows.”
Ministries refute claims in CAG reports
The ministries of road transport and health have refuted the claims of irregularities pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General in its audit reports.
An unidentified official of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said that the report flagging the irregularities in the construction of the Dwarka Expressway is erroneous and that the bidding process of the project was transparent, reported The Hindu.
The officials claimed that the average cost of the 28.96 km stretch of the expressway was estimated at Rs 5,269 crore or an average of Rs 206 crore per kilometre before inviting bidders. The officials added that the winning bidder quoted a cost of Rs 184 crore per kilometre, resulting in savings of 12% over the government’s estimates.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry defended its flagship insurance scheme, saying that mobile numbers did not play any role in the verification of the beneficiaries in the scheme.
“Ayushman Bharat PM-JAY identifies beneficiaries through Aadhaar identification wherein the beneficiary undergoes the process of mandatory Aadhaar-based e-KYC,” the ministry said. “The details fetched from the Aadhar database are matched with the source database and accordingly, the request for an Ayushman card is approved or rejected based on the beneficiary details. Thus, there is no role for mobile numbers in the verification process.”
It added that more than 50% of cases highlighted in the report by public hospitals, who, the ministry said, have no incentive in committing fraud as the money is reimbursed to the hospital account.