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Taj Corridor: The Delhi angle
September 06, 2003
I was not in Delhi when the crisis in Uttar Pradesh began to simmer, and I am currently winging it onward to Amman (the subject, hopefully, of a future column). But while I have not had the opportunity of talking to all the parties concerned, certain obvious questions do need to be answered.
First, to go back to the basics, on what basis did the Bharatiya Janata Party and Bahujan Samaj Party agree to tie up in the first place? Have those aims been achieved? If not, was the damage so great that the marriage ended in a divorce after lasting barely one year? As to the Bahujan Samaj Party, where can it find an ally having already tried out, and broken up with, the Congress (I), the Samajwadi Party, and the Bharatiya Janata Party? (Probably with Sonia
Nobody, I suspect, will come out smelling of roses from the current mess. Can anyone ever forget the mad rush, literally, to Raj Bhavan as representatives of both parties raced to inform the governor that their alliance was over? And, while Mulayam Singh Yadav has not yet proved his majority in the Vidhan Sabha, can he do so without using unsavoury methods? No, the ill-begotten Taj Corridor project shall leave nobody unstained -- with the possible exception of those newspapers who dragged it out into the public.
When I say 'nobody' that includes the Union as well as the Uttar Pradesh administrations, and civil servants just as much as it does the politicians. Which brings up a point that has been rather ignored in the dung-slinging by the various politicians -- namely the role of the bureaucracy in the whole mess.
Very briefly, I refuse to believe that the whole plan went ahead as far as it did -- the digging was well underway when the story broke -- with the Union Government being completely in the dark. No, I am not referring to Mayawati's allegations against Jagmohan which ended with her demand for his removal from the Union Cabinet -- the straw which
The episode began with the Central Bureau of Investigation getting help from an unexpected quarter, which came in the form of a photostat of a certain file. It provoked the curiosity of the investigators enough that the forensic experts were brought in to look at the file. Two facts seem to be clear enough already.
First, there was a new noting on the file, something that stood out clearly because it seemed to be in a different ink. Second, the objective of the second noting seemed to be to absolve the secretary, ministry of environment, Government of India, of any blame whatsoever in the Taj Corridor affair.
The Union environment ministry, I should point out, is not Jagmohan's responsibility but that of T R Balu. I have no idea if the minister saw the file or was aware of its contents. It seems clear, however, that the additional and joint secretaries knew what was in the offing, and realised the explosive possibilities inherent in the plan. At any rate, they recommended that the work on the project should not start before all the statutory clearances were obtained. The secretary, however, seems to have had another opinion...
This is where the photocopy enters the picture. As noted, someone appears to have had a premonition of where the project was heading, and was determined to ensure that he -- or she -- would not be dragged in. At some point, then, a photocopy of the undoctored file was made. In fact, it is perfectly possible that more than one photocopy was made, with several officers prudently hanging on to their copy. I would love to know the identity of the anonymous writer who so helpfully drew the CBI's attention to the file by sending one of these copies, but this is a side-issue at best. What is important is that there were several persons in Delhi who knew what was in the offing...
It is up to the forensic laboratory to determine if the file in question was indeed doctored. It is the duty of the investigators to unearth who did so. And it is the part of the judiciary to ensure that the CBI does not falter in this task. But, even as we salute the anonymous bureaucrats who had the wit to preserve copies and enough respect for truth to bring it to the investigators' attention, let us also be careful that no attempt is made to shift all the blame to Mayawati and her ministers. Delhi -- parts of it anyway -- knew what was happening, and must take its lumps along with the rest of the guilty men.
T V R Shenoy