Arunachal orders probe in road scam, Congress demands deputy CM’s resignation

The Arunachal Pradesh government has started investigation into an alleged scam where a portion of compensation, amounting to around Rs 228 crore for land on two stretches of road on the ambitious Trans-Arunachal highway, was swindled.

The opposition Congress demanded the resignation of deputy chief minister Chowna Mein alleging his role in the scam, an accusation he termed “baseless”.

The special investigations cell of police on Tuesday arrested former Lower Subansiri deputy commissioner Kemo Lollen, the district’s former land revenue officer and settlement officer Bharat Ligu, and businessman Likha Maj under Prevention of Corruption Act.

“A sitting MLA is under investigation. More arrests are likely,” said a police official handling the probe, refusing to reveal the identity of the legislator. All three MLAs in the Lower Subansiri district come from the ruling BJP.

Police were as acting on a report by a fact-finding team on the disbursal of compensation for the road from Joram to Koloriang, a 30km stretch in Lower Subansiri district, worth Rs 40 crore. It was sanctioned by the Centre, through National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited.

Pranav Tayal, SP, Special Investigations Cell, said the detailed project report submitted by Lollen, the then district collector, and “the modus operandi of defrauding the government exchequer also involved fake and non-existent persons”.

A parallel enquiry has been constituted to look into similar allegations of swindling of compensation from the sanctioned Rs 188 crore in the 120km stretch between Potin to Bopi in Lower Subansiri. A senior state government official said that around Rs 150 crore has been disbursed amid complaints of money being given to “fake” beneficiaries.

The Congress sought Mein’s resignation. “The scam could not have happened without his knowledge. He is minister of PWD, finance and planning,” said Tamchi Tahar, general secretary of Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee.

But, Mein said, “Their allegations are not just baseless but also without any proof. The initial estimates of compensation stood at around Rs 400 crore, which the government of India did not agree to. I called a meeting to reduce the right of way to 14m but that was done to save on compensation.

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