The Congress on Wednesday levelled money laundering charges against a company linked to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat's Industrial Adviser K S Panwar, saying the CM's claim of zero tolerance to corruption is no more than a slogan. Moving a notice for the suspension of the scheduled business of the Uttarakhand Assembly on the third day of its winter session to debate the issue, Congress MLA Kaji Nijamuddin claimed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had written to the state government in June about the firm's involvement in "illegal activities".
It was alleged in the notice that Panwar had quit as the director of Social Mutual Benefit Company Ltd after becoming the chief minister's Industrial advisor and it is now being run by his wife and brother. Levelling money laundering charges of worth over Rs 200 crore against the firm, Nijamudding said the matter is of immediate public importance and deserves to be debated in the House by putting aside the scheduled business of the day.
Participating in the admissibility of the notice, state Congress president and Chakrata MLA Pritam Singh said the chief minister's so-called zero tolerance to corruption should begin with his own industrial adviser. "How come an amount of Rs 200 crore was transacted by the firm within just three years," he asked. Referring to the NH-74 scam in which a CBI probe is yet to be launched despite the chief minister's assertions to the contrary, Singh said it is a classic case of corruption flourishing right under the nose of the CM.
"How ironical does it look when juxtaposed with all the drum beating being done by the state government about zero tolerance to corruption," he said. "It proves that zero tolerance to corruption is no more than a slogan. The state government does not have the true will to fight corruption, he said.
Ranikhet MLA Karan Mahra said there are 2.5 lakh shareholders of the company whose credentials need to be looked into as their residential addresses are not mentioned in its records. Leader of Opposition Indira Hridayesh said the lack of will on part of the government to combat corruption is also reflected in its failure to create the post of a Lokayukta.
The delay in it is deliberate as all ministers, including the chief minister, will come under its ambit, Hridayesh said. Replying to the allegations, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Kaushik said he had sought information from the RBI regarding the firm and it has clearly stated that it has forwarded nothing about the company to the government in June.
On its credentials, Kaushik said a probe conducted by the STF in 2019 had listed it among 98 firms having the approvals of the regulatory bodies concerned. After Kaushik's assertions, Kaji Nijamudding termed it as a clear case of money laundering and said he could submit a pen drive containing data substantiating his charges, triggering a brief but heated exchange between the treasury and opposition benches.
Kaushik said he did not need to see any pen drive when he had documents from the RBI and the STF to rebut the charges. Speaker Premchand Aggrawal intervened on it, saying the opposition's charges had been rebutted point-wise and there is no point in stretching the discussion.
At this, angry opposition members rose from their seats, shouting anti-government slogans like "bhrashtachari sarkar nahin chalegi". When the speaker ignored them and went ahead with the day's business, the opposition walked out of the House.