In 1981, he was front page news in many newspapers for topping the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) exams, inspiring many young Indians. He was even given a cadre that was his first choice — Uttar Pradesh.
Thirty one years later, Pradeep Shukla, former principal secretary (health) of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the prime suspects in the Rs 9,000 crore National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam. In Delhi for interrogation, he was summoned to the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) headquarters everyday, for seven days in a row.
According to sources, the IAS topper was interrogated about half-a-dozen NRHM projects worth hundreds of crores that he had executed. At the top was a project for purchasing hundreds of mobile medical units — the contract for which was awarded to three companies: Jagran Solutions, Jain Video on Wheels and Camp Rewa.
The CBI alleges that Shukla gave these companies undue favours, even after contracts were awarded.
According to CBI sources, Shukla gave the companies “undue favours” including relaxing bank guarantee rules and allowing the same companies to oversee “interior fabrication” of the mobile medical units which was against tender rules. (To read earlier Firstpost exclusives on the NRHM scam, read this, and this and this).
The counting is still on, but the loss to the government exchequer on only the mobile medical units is pegged to be at Rs 23 crore.
The CBI suspects that the seeds of the scam were sowed when the UP government created the additional post of Chief Medical Officer (CMO), family welfare, in each district, and had them report to the Minister of Family Welfare Baburam Kushwaha. (Read a CMO’s take on it here). This despite there already being a CMO, health, in each district who worked directly under the state’s Minister of Health, Anant Mishra.
The family welfare CMOs were also tasked with carrying out all NRHM projects. The CBI believes that Pradeep Shukla was instrumental in this decision.
Shukla, according to CBI sources, played a role in awarding upgradation contracts for 89 district-level hospitals in 2010, a role already delegated to the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd or UPPCL, a state public sector unit. The Director-General, family welfare, SP Ram, had even deposited Rs 87.16 crore of NRHM funds with UPPCL on 19 September 2010 and CMOs were thereafter instructed to initiate work on their respective district hospitals.
However, 17 days later, on 6 October 2010, the Executive Committee headed by Pradeep Shukla decided to transfer the work from UPPCL to another public sector unit called PACCFED (UP Processing and Construction Cooperative Federation Ltd). The word going around is that 25 percent of the total project cost was paid by Moradabad-based businessman, Saurabh Jain (now in jail) and his associates for this “favour”.
The work was transferred on a ‘false’ report purported to have been sent by the DG, Family Welfare, after which the Rs 87.16 crore was transferred to PACCFED. Shukla apparently justified this saying there was a state government order to this effect.
In another NRHM case, the IAS topper is being probed for allegedly using his influence to award a medical project involving upgradation of 40 district-level hospitals to Surgicoin Mediquip Pvt Ltd.
The CBI believes that Rs 1.25 crore was to be paid to secure this contract. A sum of Rs 50 lakh was allegedly paid to a Shukla’s acquaintance, Ashok Vajpayee from Delhi. More money was paid to Vajpayee in Lucknow and also to Shukla, allegedly at the behest of the Surgicoin chief, the CBI suspects.
The CBI team is in the final stages of working out the money trail in Pradeep Shukla’s case.