Punjab Vigilance Bureau Arrests Another Accused in Labor Cartage and Transport Tender Fraud Case
Chandigarh, October 22:
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) has apprehended Yashpal, a resident of Udhanwal village in SBS Nagar, in connection with a fraud scheme involving labor cartage and transport tenders in grain markets within the SBS Nagar district. This illicit operation involved collusion between various contractors and officials/employees of the Food and Civil Supplies department and procurement agencies. A case had already been filed against former Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu, his aide Pankaj Kumar alias Menu Malhotra, Deputy Director RK Singla, DFSC Rakesh Bhaskar, and three contractors, Telu Ram, Yashpal, and Ajaypal, for their role in this fraudulent activity, which caused substantial losses to the state exchequer.
According to a spokesperson from the VB, the Bureau initiated an investigation into this grain market scam in SBB Nagar and filed Case No. 18 on September 22, 2022, against the aforementioned individuals. The charges include sections 420, 409, 467, 468, 471, 120-B, and sections 7, 8, 12, 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act at the VB Police Station in Jalandhar.
Further details revealed that during the tendering process for labor cartage and transport services in wheat/paddy/stock articles in the 2020-2021 season, Honey Kumar, the owner of RS Co-operative Labor and Construction Society, submitted tenders for Nawanshahr and Rahon clusters. Similarly, PG Godown filed tenders for Nawanshahr. However, these bids were inexplicably rejected by the department. Subsequently, Telu Ram was awarded the tenders for the Nawanshahr cluster at a rate 71 percent higher, and the Rahon cluster at 72 percent higher. When tenders were called for the 2022-23 season, Honey Kumar again submitted basic rate tenders for labor work in the Rahon and Nawanshahr clusters, only to have his bids rejected. Labor tenders were then granted to contractor Ajaypal at rates 73 percent higher for Nawanshahr and 72 percent higher for Rahon.
The spokesperson added that contractors Telu Ram and Yashpal, during the 2020-21 tenders, and contractor Ajaypal in the 2020-21 and 2022-23 tenders, attached online lists of vehicle registration numbers for goods transportation. However, an investigation uncovered that these lists included a significant number of vehicles such as scooters, motorcycles, cars, pickups, tractor trailers, LPG tankers, and harvesters, which were unsuitable for transporting food grains.
During the probe, it was established that the registration numbers of fictitious vehicles on the gate passes and the reported quantities of food grains were fraudulent and indicated embezzlement. Moreover, officials/employees of the Food and Civil Supplies department had made payments to these contractors for work performed without validating the authenticity of these falsified gate passes.
The spokesperson also disclosed that photocopies of Aadhaar cards submitted by the contractors during the tender process revealed numerous discrepancies. These included cards belonging to minor workers, individuals over 60 years old, and illegible cards. In light of these findings, the district tender committee should have disqualified the concerned contractors, but this was not done. Instead, officials and employees of the Food and Civil Supplies department and procurement agencies collaborated to perpetrate this fraud in the labor cartage and transport tenders. Based on the investigation’s findings, the case was registered against the aforementioned individuals.
The spokesperson added that four of the accused, including Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Menu Malhotra, Telu Ram, and Yashpal, have been apprehended, while efforts are underway to apprehend the remaining fugitive individuals. It’s worth noting that DFSC Rakesh Bhaskar had previously passed away, and the VB has initiated proceedings against RK Singla in court to declare him a proclaimed offender.