By Neeraj Mahajan/ Taazakhabar News Exclusive
Full marks to Bhure Lal — what-so-ever little he spent while serving as an emergency commissioned officer in the regiment of artillery of the Indian Army before opting to be a Babu taught him four more things than an average bureaucrat.
• One is the art of camouflaging or covering up one’s tracks.
• Two- Big guns fire from a distance (they cannot be seen) but are very effective
• Three -Shoot and scoot – a well known military tactics where guns keep changing their position instead of fighting a pitched battle from a fixed spot.
• Four- Survival of the fittest
The subsequent lessons he learnt as a Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and later Chairman of the Bhure Lal high power Committee set up by the Supreme Court of India also helped.
As a result these experiences in life, Bhure Lal allegedly mastered the art of management or pulling strings without being seen or spotted.
It seems that the lyrics of the Bollywood song – “Kahin pe nishaana, kahin pe nigahain” were written just for men like him.
To cut the long story short, the Supreme Court ordered two expressways — each about 135 km each –in 2005. The main aim of the construction of these two highways namely – the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressway was to decongest Delhi roads. The idea was that these expressways would form a ring road outside Delhi to make the non-Delhi bound traffic bypass the national capital.
Eastern Peripheral Expressway’s aim was to provide signal-free connectivity between Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Greater Noida and Palwal while the Western Expressway was to connect Kundli to Palwal via Manesar.
To monitor these projects the Supreme Court set up a Monitoring Committee in 1999-2000. Bhure Lal as Chairman of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) was also a member of the committee. His main role was supposed to be to ensure timely completion of the project and to suggest ways to reduce environmental pollution levels in Delhi.
Evidently Bhure Lal allegedly failed on both the counts:
• One the project is nowhere near completion despite a nine-years delay and
• Two – the pollution level in Delhi today has increased many times.
Despite these apparent failures – no one dared question around 80-year-old Bhure Lal, who had managed to create a “holier than thou” image because of his political connections and managed to retain one or the other government post – almost twenty years past the average retirement age in any government service.
The crux of this story is how-a la-pied-piper Bhure Lal allegedly kept playing a different tune while apparently safeguarding his personal interests somewhere else.
NH-58 loop at Duhai- A saga of compromises
The story dates back to 2007. Dr. Manmohan Singh was the fourteenth Prime Minister India while Brahm Dutt was the Secretary Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
At that time even while the official government policy was “one man one post” (that’s why Sonia Gandhi could not be the Prime Minister as well as well as the Congress party president) Bhure Lal (re-employed) was holding two post-retirement portfolios. He was the Chairman of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) as well as a Member of the Union Public Service Commission.
On 8th, August 2007 Bhure Lal wrote a very polite DO letter No EWPE/07 to Brahm Dutt, who was then Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. “I shall be grateful if you could find out an alternate alignment so that the (industrial) units mentioned in the Association’s letter (copy enclosed in original) are excluded from the acquisition,” Bhure Lal wrote to the Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
According to specific enquiries made by Taazakhabar News from the UPSC– as per protocol a member of UPSC is equivalent to Election Commissioner of India and hence higher in designation and authority than the Secretary to the Government of India.
Even though the Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways was the Chairman of the Monitoring Committee — 1962 batch UP cadre officer Bhure Lal was his senior – by virtue of being a member of UPSC & Chairman EPC. Hence, even though it sounded like a request – it was something Brahm Dutt could not dismiss or take it lightly. In bureaucratic parlance, even application from a higher authority is like an order that cannot be ignored.
Within a month of Bhure Lal’s request Brahm Dutt, the then Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for formality sake put up the matter before the 10th meeting of the Monitoring Committee on 5th September 2007.
“Before taking up the important issues for discussion Secretary (RT&H) referred to a representation forwarded by Shri Bhure Lal a Member of the Monitoring Committee, regarding exploring an alternative alignment to avoid acquisition of three small industrial units in Village Duhai in district Ghaziabad.”
Even while doing so, Brahm Dutt placed on record his own reservation to the idea,
“Changing alignment at this time would require another 3-4 months time for completing the land acquisition formalities, it was therefore decided that the alignment should not be changed at this stage as the same will push the project back by considerable time”.
The matter got further complicated when Dr Abha Gupta the then ADM (Land Acquisition) vide her letters dated September 2007- and letter dated 27 March 2008 also objected to changing the alignment of the expressway as the land had already been acquired at the originally planned (now changed) site and compensation paid to the actual land owners.
Her basic problem was that as per NHAI Act land once acquired cannot be returned to the original owner.
This was the beginning of a behind the scene proxy war. What no one seems to know what exactly happened over the next few months but soon enough Dr Abha Gupta got her marching orders while the Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways also softened his earlier objection to changing the alignment of the highway.
According to informed sources, both Bhure Lal and the Minister for Road Transport and Highways Kamal Nath allegedly had a role to play behind this reversal of earlier objections.
Changing the alignment of the Expressway directly suited Bhure Lal because ITS Dental College near Duhai-Muradnagar was saved from demolition while almost the entire Duhai village was now sought to be acquired.
Bhure Lal reportedly happens to be the Chairman Advisory Board/ Academic Council of ITS Dental College and allegedly also has a stake in the Collage affairs.
The then surface transport Minister Kamal Nath also has direct involvement in several academic institutions in the Ghaziabad region.
As a result, of the behind the scene string pulling ITS Dental College was saved. RD Engineering College owned by the spouse of serving UP IAS officer was rescued. So was a 50 bigha plot owned by Om Pathak, a former District Magistrate of Ghaziabad and now Chairmen of DPS Educational Society.
But at the other end of the spectrum — a big part of the huge Sunderdeep Engineering College owned by Bhure Lal’s arch critic Mahendra Aggarwal was ordered to be demolished. So were both Dasna and Duhai village and all their residents – mainly the Scheduled castes.
There is more in this case than meets the eye- the probably an impartial CBI enquiry is the answer.