Corruption cases continue to haunt Mayawati

Mayawati,Bahajun Samaj Party(BSP) supremo and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP) may have got relief in the disproportionate assets (DA) case from the Supreme Court but corruption cases will continue to chase her.

While the 2003 Taj Heritage Corridor Scam is still pending in the Allahabad high court, her name is also being taken in the anomalies in construction of dalit memorials in the state during her rule and in the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam. Significantly, the DA case had come out during investigation for Taj Heritage Corridor case. Though DA case has been quashed, the next hearing of the Taj Heritage Corridor scam is scheduled before a bench of Justices Imtiyaz Murtaza and SC Chaurasia on July 10.

 In 2002, the Supreme Court had ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the Taj Heritage Corridor case on a petition. She was accused of swindling Rs 17 crore that was meant to develop and upgrade the area and tourist facilities near the Taj Mahal. The project was then cancelled for environmental reasons.

 In 2003, while investigating the Taj case, the CBI filed the DA case against her. She was accused of misusing her term as the chief minister for personal gain. Mayawati took plea that they money she has was ‘gift’ and ‘donations’ from party workers. The investigations in Taj corridor case also continued. The CBI filed a chargesheet against Mayawati, her close aide and former minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui, former principal secretary of environment RK Sharma and former environment secretary Rajendra Prasad under IPC sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 before a special CBI court in 2007. Bureaucrat PL Punia, who was close to Mayawati in 2003, was also named by the CBI but he turned approver and after retirement from the services joined Congress and won Lok Sabha election from Barabanki in 2009. The CBI court denied to admit the chargesheet against Mayawati because then UP governor TV Rajeswar, appointed by the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, refused permission to the CBI to prosecute Mayawati, saying that there wasn’t enough evidence. The CBI approached Supreme Court against governor’s decision but its plea was rejected. The case was closed but in 2009 a fresh public interest litigation was filed in the Allahabad high court seeking prosecution of bigwigs allegedly involved in the scam.

 The CBI is also looking for legal remedies in the DA case. The Supreme Court, in its verdict on Friday, said that the CBI exceeded its jurisdiction in filing a DA case against BSP supremo as in 2003 it was instructed to go ahead only with the Taj case. However, the CBI says that the apex court on October 25, 2004 had delinked the two cases and asked the agency to proceed with the investigations.

 Now using the 2004 order, the CBI may file a review petition. The agency is also probing the role of BSP chief in over Rs 5000 crore NRHM scam in the state during her rule.

 On the other hand, the SP government in UP is contemplating to refer the multi-crore scam in implementation of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in the state to the CBI. SP leader and urban development minister Azam Khan has written to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav that JNNURM scam is bigger than NRHM scam and requires a thorough probe by the CBI. The complaints of anomalies in construction of dalit memorials in Lucknow and Noida during the BSP rule has already been referred to the Lokayukta by the SP government. Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has asked UP government to refer CBI inquiry into the scam in implemenation of MNERGA. A petition has been filed by a retired judge in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad high court seeking probe into all the alleged scams reported during Maya rule. They include Rs 300 crore dalit memorial scam, Noida land scam, Rs 1200 crore scam in sale of 21 government sugar mills, scam in appointment of 72,000 government teachers and scams in excise and mining departments among others.

India plans better housing facilities for urban poor

With an estimated 95 million people expected to be living in shanties by next year, the government has drawn up an ‘ambitious’, but ‘achievable’ scheme to transform the urban landscape of the country by providing affordable houses and better amenities for the urban poor.

‘Rajiv Awas Yojana, which is called RAY, has the potential to radically transform the urban landscape of India and the living conditions of the urban poor,’ said Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Selja here Saturday while inaugurating the state minister’s conference on RAY.

In a bid to make the country free of slums, the central government June 2 approved RAY, which envisages building affordable housing and basic facilities for the urban poor. RAY is part of the government’s ambitious Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

RAY will cover 250 cities with a population of more than 100,000 by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17). The scheme aims to help re-develop slums, stop their proliferation and provide a dignified life and property rights to the dwellers.

The government will bear 50 percent of the cost of the slum projects and Rs.1,000 crore will be provided as capital for mortgage guarantee facilities under the scheme.

Selja said the scheme ‘envisions an inclusive and equitable urban India where every citizen has access to the basic civic and social services and decent shelter’.She said the scheme was drawn up in response to the need that India’s urban population is going to double — from 286 million in 2001 to 573 million by 2030.

The 2011 Census figures place India’s urban population at 377 million, representing 31.16 percent of the total population, she added.

Selja said it is estimated that although the percentage of the urban poor had declined from around 49 percent in 1993-1994 to 25.7 percent in 2004-05, yet the urban poor have grown in absolute numbers from 76.3 million to 80.7 million in this period.

‘The majority of these urban poor live in slums and squatter settlements in conditions of squalor and deprivation. Slums are growing with the cities’ growth. The slum population in India is projected to be 95 million by next year, and 104 million by the year 2017,’ she said.

‘We must recognise that people who are counted as urban poor today play a significant role in the functioning, productivity and competitiveness of cities. At present, the wealth and prosperity generated in urban centres is hardly ever shared with these people. This trend has to be changed,’ she stressed.

‘RAY is nothing short of a mission for urban reconstruction. It is ambitious, but achievable,’ she added.