The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau in Kerala has had a busy day rounding up their accused list in the Palarivattom fly-over case. Adding to this, they have started a preliminary inquiry against former Ernakulam Collector M Rajamanickam IAS based on a complaint of irregularity. The Bureau has informed the Vigilance Court in Muvattupuzha that the Kerala government had given their nod to start an inquiry.
The complaint pertains to the state’s acquisition of land owned by textiles group Seematti for the construction of Kochi Metro Rail project. In the complaint, the Kalamassery native alleged that Rajamanickam had “entered into a contract with Seematti to compensate them for their land at double the market value as estimated by the government”.
The government-fixed price in the original contract indicated Rs 52 lakh per cent, but Rajamanickam allegedly allowed “certain sections” into the deal that allowed the Seematti to sell at Rs 80 lakh per cent. Moreover, if all landowners made similar claims, then the total cost to the exchequer would have been Rs 1,500 crore.
The Vigilance had filed a report on the matter in 2016 and decided not to pursue a case. However, the court had directed the agency to investigate again in July 2019 following the state government’s permission. With the latest nod from the state government to pursue a preliminary inquiry, the Vigilance judge Jobin Sebastian asked the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau to file the report on the probe by February 4, 2021.
Meanwhile, former Chief Minister and Congress leader Oommen Chandy came to the defence of Rajamanickam, who is currently the Managing Director of Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation. Oommen Chandy said that the land dealings and its associated decisions were made during the ministers’ meet. “As the then Chief Minister I have responsibility. I cannot allow the bureaucrats to be made into sacrifices for this,” he added.