Guwahati: In a case of extreme negligence towards public interest, top officials of Assam’s Water Resources Department, including its chief engineer and Upper Assam-based additional chief engineer, have caused inordinate delay in probing a case of alleged corruption and misappropriation of public funds amounting to Rs 1.45 crore.

The fund was meant for the implementation of an anti-erosion scheme at Raghubari village in Sivasagar district.

As per reports, the additional chief engineer of the Upper Assam Zone of the water resources department had issued a work order to two contractors, namely Punyadhar Kalita and Upen Borthakur (work order No ACE/WR/SIB/NIT-201/2010/32 Dated 17.07.21) to complete their works for the protection and repair of a major embankment in Sivasagar district.

The scheme was named “Immediate measures for restoration of a breach like damages at Raghubari Reach II on dyke Dikhow Bund L/B from Namdung outfall to Dikhowmukh under SDRF for 2019-20”. A time period of two months was accorded for the completion of this anti-erosion and embankment repairing SDRF scheme.

Even as the foundation of the scheme was laid by Amguri MLA Pradip Hazarika in December 2021, 50 per cent of its work has not been completed even after six months.

There was a provision for 88 RCC boundary pillars in the scheme. But in reality, not a single pillar was constructed to avert any accidents due to the slippery embankment.

The locals of Raghubari submitted a petition to the secretary, water resources department, Dispur seeking proper investigation into the case. Several residents alleged that a section of corrupt engineers, including assistant engineer of Sivasagar Water Resources Division Indra Nath Gogoi and few of his subordinate staff, are involved in the case of corruption and misappropriation of public fund, and showed utter negligence in discharging their government duties since the launching of the scheme.

Parama Nanda Bora, a retired government employee, said that a proper investigation into this case of alleged corruption was needed.

The petitioners alleged that Sivasagar deputy commissioner has also showed leniency towards taking any action against the officers involved in the case of alleged corruption, as he has not sent any senior officer to verify whether the works of the SDRF scheme were implemented properly to protect Dikhowmukh, Gaurisagar and its adjoining areas from the serious threat of flood.

“We lodged complaints with the Sivasagar DC three months ago. But, he is yet to order any probe into the grievances,” said a villager in Raghubari village.

“No officer has arrived at the spot to inquire into the matter. We request the government to complete a free and fair probe without any delay. We heard inquiry was announced in April this year by the office of the secretary, Water Resources Department. Everyone can see the reality of Raghubari. There is a huge gap between the works in the DPR and the works done by the contractors. We demand a free and fair investigation so that no government money is misappropriated by the corrupt engineers, assistant engineer and contractors,” said a senior citizen of Dikhowmukh.  

They collected the information about the scheme from the respective department through RTI Act 2005, and examined the vast gap between the detailed project report (DPR) of the scheme and the works executed in reality.

The official records revealed that the chief engineer entrusted the additional chief engineer of the Upper Assam zone on April 2, 2022, to look into the matter and submit a report against the grievances for onward submission of the same to the Assam government.

The matter is serious as it was mentioned as “misuse of government fund” in the letter (No. WR(ED) Tech/7867/2022/02 date:02.04.2022) issued from the Guwahati-based office of the chief engineer of the water resources department to the Dibrugarh based additional chief engineer of the department.  

The probe order was earlier issued from the office of the secretary of the department through an office letter (No. WR©120/2019/131, dated Dispur, the 15th March 2022) as the sensitive senior citizens of the Dikhowmukh area and two village heads submitted a petition with appropriate photographs. Rs 1.45 crore was sanctioned for the scheme.

The villagers captured photographs and video of the works and submitted it to the secretary’s office with written submission, alleging misappropriation of government funds. They saw a huge gap between the estimated works for the protection of the embankment and the works done by the contractors.

The expansion of the embankment was not done up to the mark of 4.5 metres as per the estimate of the detailed project report. The filter drains were filled up with mud and stone, which was contrary to the strong construction of an embankment, alleged several villagers of Raghubari.

It is alleged that the contractor, who has got the work order, was working in close nexus with the department officials in siphoning off the funds meant for controlling erosion, which is the reason behind the delay in probing the case.

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