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New Delhi: Successive reports at the culmination of a four-month-long investigation carried out by Indian Express have revealed that companies associated with relatives and aides of top political leaders – from ruling Janata Dal (United) and Bharatiya Janata Party to the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress – have been awarded contracts worth crores as part of Bihar’s flagship programme, ‘Har Ghar Nal ka Jal’.
This has been the case in least across 20 districts in the state.
Bihar’s flagship programme has received praise from several quarters and has been able to reach 1.08 lakh panchayat wards in the state with potable water, reports say. In the last five years, it has been able to achieve 95% of the target it had initially planned.
The project has now emerged an example of how political patronage permeating the civil construction business in the state.
Topping the list is the state’s deputy chief minister, Tarkishore Prasad. Among those awarded contracts are Prasad’s daughter-in-law. In addition, two firms, one linked to his brother-in-law and the other, to three of his aides, are involved. In total, those associated with Prasad have been awarded contracts worth Rs 53 crore.
On being questioned about political patronage, Prasad told Express, “There is nothing wrong in doing business” and that he wasn’t even deputy chief minister when contracts were awarded and only an MLA. Prasad was made deputy chief minister in November 2020.
As per norms, these contracts should have been awarded through a bidding process. Firms that have been in the line of civil construction based on experience and amount quoted, among other criteria are awarded contracts. However, it has emerged that in the case of Prasad, his daughter-in-law was given the contract despite the fact that she had no record of any work in the field.
Another key leader on the list is Anil Singh, JD (U)’s former state secretary. Firms associated with his family have been awarded contracts worth Rs 80 crore. Anil Singh is a key leader in state politics and participates in all major functions attended by chief minister Nitish Kumar.
BJP MLA Vinod Narayan Jha has also figured on the list. His nephew was awarded contracts worth Rs 3.5 crore in 2019-20 when his uncle was PHED (Public Health Engineering Department) Minister.
The project is overseen by PHED, and each contract is worth Rs 30-57 lakh. As per the guidelines, contractors get 60% to 65% of the money when work is still underway and the remaining 35% to 40% in equal parts for maintenance over five year period.
Under each contract, a contractor is responsible for coming up with two plastic tanks of 5,000 litres each on a tower and pumping them with water from a borewell, which is to be maintained by the company operator. Then this is followed by supplying water using a pipeline to a brass tap at a location nearest to the entrance of a house, in each ward.
Some of the other top political leaders and whose relatives and associates have been awarded contracts are
- Deepak Kumar, senior JDU leader: A firm, Khushi Constructions, of which he and his relatives are on the board as partners has been awarded contracts in 900 wards. Initially, it was awarded contracts worth Rs 80 crore. However, the company later got mired in a court case and has since been blacklisted.
- Rajiv Kamal alias Rinku Singh, RJD state general secretary: As a registered contractor, Kamal has been awarded contracts worth Rs 4.5 crore. He was awarded three sets of contracts in Jamui.
- Rajan Tiwari, BJP spokesperson: Jai Sri Shyam Construction, owned by Tiwari, has been awarded contracts in 28 wards worth Rs 17 crore.
- Manoj Gupta, ex-state coordinator, BJP business cell: RM Constructions, linked to Gupta, has been awarded 12 sets of contracts worth Rs 23 crore.
- Dharmendra Kumar Sah, president of JD(U)’s EBC wing, Samastipur: Sah got two sets of contracts worth Rs 4 crore.
- Ahmed Akhtar, Congress, Bagaha: Akhtar has been awarded contracts worth Rs 85 lakh in two wards in 2019-20. Akhtar said he works for JP Enterprises, which is owned by local resident Janardhan Prasad.
In addition to these leaders, there are many more who received contracts worth anywhere between Rs 35 lakh and a few crores.