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CVC to probe shoddy construction at Lucknow airport

August 17, 2012 18:56 IST

The Central Vigilance Commission will inquire into the alleged bungling in construction of a new terminal at Lucknow's Chaudhary Charan Singh airport.

The probe follows complaints made about "sub-standard" construction of the Rs 90-crore terminal building, that was inaugurated barely two months back by Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, who had earlier used his influence on ally Congress to get the airport named after his late father Chaudhary Charan Singh who did a brief stint as the country's prime minister in 1979-80.

Responding to the complaints made by several persons including Lucknow Lok Sabha member Lalji Tandon of Bhartiya Janata Party, Ajit Singh has initially ordered a preliminary departmental inquiry into the alleged scam.

And it was on the basis of the report submitted by special inquiry officer Samir Sahai, chief vigilance officer of the Union government-run 'Pawan Hans' -- that the minister had now asked the CVC to carry out a deeper and more serious probe into the suspected large scale pilferage of money in the construction.

Significantly, the departmental inquiry carried out by Pawan Hans CVO has confirmed not only use of "sub-standard" material but also "poor quality" construction. It also speaks about "leakage from the ceiling" and "cracking of granite floors" at several areas both in the arrival and the departure areas of the airport.

The inquiry officer also made particular mention of "poor maintenance" of facilities including washrooms, drinking water outlets or the circulating area inside the airport. Even some serious defects were noticed in the basic design which was stated to be terribly lacking in perspective planning for the future.

What had however become cause for major worry for top officials now was the fact that the civil aviation ministry had already disbursed payments to the tune of Rs 85 crores out of the Rs 90 crore budget laid out for the new terminal project.

"We do not rule out involvement of top officials, both belonging to the Airport Authority of India as well as the civil aviation ministry, without whom the bungling could not have been possible," observed a senior ministry official.

He suspects that those involved in the construction work could have easily siphoned away at least 25 per cent of the allocated funds.

Even though the contract for the construction was awarded way back in October 2007 to M/s IPL Brahmputra Infrastructure Ltd, which took two years beyond its own deadline to complete the project in May 2012, no effort was made by anyone in the civil aviation ministry in all these years to check the quality of construction.

It was only after media highlighted the blatantly visible pitfalls in the construction quality that some political leaders raised the issue before the present civil aviation minister, who had also not cared to take any cognizance of the sub-standard construction before that.

Ajit Singh ordered the probe only after much heat and dust was raised over the issue.

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow