By Vivek Avasthi
Tainted engineer-in-chief of Noida, Yadav Singh was finally placed under formal arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, he was called for questioning to the CBI headquarters in New Delhi and quizzed for several hours before being formally placed under arrest. The arrest has been made in connection with the Disproportionate Assets case.
He is said to have doled out contracts worth over Rs 10,000 crore to his cronies and facilitated allotment of group housing, and of commercial, industrial and institutional plots to many top ranking builders in Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway.
Singh's journey came to an end when Income Tax sleuths swooped down on his properties in Noida on 27 November, 2014. They recovered Rs. 10 crore in cash and two kilograms of diamond-studded gold ornaments. Investigations revealed that 40 companies were registered in the name of his wife Kusum Lata and 20 buildings in Noida, Ghaziabad and Delhi in Singh's name. Some of these companies were into garment exports as their front business but were involved in land deals.
Land was purchased at throwaway prices, using the clout of Singh, and later sold at prevailing market rates. Singh is also said to have allotted 32 plots out of a total of 319 farm house plots in his name and the names of his family members in 2011-12. Investigations also revealed that Kusum Lata had purchased large chunks of land in Firozabad District of Uttar Pradesh, where she hails from.
Enforcement Directorate also swung into action and registered a case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as agencies got evidence that the couple illegally bought property outside the country.
Singh was placed under suspension and in February 2015, a one-member judicial commission was set up by the Uttar Pradesh government to probe the multi-crore case. But in July 2015, the Allahabad High Court directed the CBI to investigate the case as "allegations were most serious and the probe was complex". The UP government approached the Supreme Court against the High Court order but the Supreme Court refused to entertain the plea of the state government. Initially, many were surprised that the UP Government was trying to shield Singh from a CBI enquiry but soon things became crystal clear.
Investigations revealed that Singh has close connections with the Samajwadi Party leadership. Records of a firm owned by Singh's associate Rejeev Kumar Minocha showed that 9995 shares of his company NM Buildwell, were given to Samajwadi Party's Firozabad Member of Parliament Akshay Yadav, the son of party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, who is also the cousin of party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Minocha is said to be a partner of Singh's wife Kusum Lata and the SUV from which Rs 10 crore was recovered at Singh's house, belonged to Minocha.
There are serious allegations that many top Samajwadi Party leaders got many benefits from Singh in their futile bid to save him from a CBI enquiry. It is being said that two bemani properties of Singh — a hotel in Sector-37 of Noida and a residential plot in prime sector-44 of Noida — had been transferred in fictitious names to benefit his present political masters.
He joined Noida Authority as a junior engineer in 1980. He was promoted to the post of assistant project engineer in 1985. This promotion raised a storm within the Noida Authority, as it superseded 20 assistant project engineers. And that too with a rider that he should get an engineering degree within three years of his promotion date.
It was quite evident that Singh had in his early days mastered the art of pulling political strings to his advantage because as per rules only a junior engineer with 15 years of service experience can be promoted to the rank of assistant project engineer but Singh achieved this feat in just five years, that too without having an engineering degree.
It was in 1995 that he was elevated to the post of project engineer. Since then Uttar Pradesh has seen six chief ministers from three political parties. Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh of the BJP, Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party, and Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party. But Singh was comfortable with every regime and this showed that he was never weak at political management.
He became the blue-eyed boy of Mayawati and was appointed chief project engineer in 2002. This post is equivalent to chief engineer level - II. This was even more unprecedented and Singh gained more power. In 2007, when Bahujan Samaj Party and Mayawati stormed back into power in Uttar Pradesh, Singh was made the engineer-in-chief of Noida. Obviously, he had very 'çordial relations' with higher ups of the party.
Later during the 2014 Income Tax raids, one of his diaries revealed suspicious financial dealings with political figures supposedly Bahujan Samaj Party leaders named "Bhai Sahab" and "Pandit ji". Sources say that Bhai Sahab was a reference to Mayawati's brother Anand Kumar and Pandit ji is the pseudonym for Satish Awana alias Pappu Awana, a BSP leader of Noida. But the BSP leadership has constantly denied any involvement with Singh.
It was in 2012 when there was change of guard in Uttar Pradesh and Samajwadi Party came into power. RP Singh, an engineer with Noida Authority filed an FIR against his colleague Singh under various sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act. Allegations were made that during the previous BSP regime, Singh had passed a tender to the tune of Rs. 954 crore for an underground cable laying mega project.
It was alleged that the tender work was started even before the tendering process could be completed. The state government immediately placed Singh under suspension and a CB-CID inquiry was initiated against him. Soon, he was exonerated by the CB-CID which stated that "no financial loss to the exchequer was found". This was enough of an example to show that Singh had not wasted much time in making inroads in the new government establishment.
Within no time, he was reinstated and again in February 2014, he was made the engineer-in-chief of Noida Authority. In November, he was given additional charge of Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway Authority as well, earning the distinction to be the first engineer-in-chief of the state to have all three authorities in his kitty. The total development fund of these three authorities in a year amasses to Rs. 200 crore.
With Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh round the corner, the arrest of Singh could well give many a sleepless night to a number of politicians of the Hindi heartland.