New Delhi: Last month, top railway officer Mahesh Kumar, arrested in the railway bribery scam, took just nine days to approve a Rs269-crore proposal for the Western Railways. This is a remarkably short time to clear such a proposal, one of the last that Kumar cleared in his capacity as WR’s general manager. Shortly after this, he was promoted to member (staff) of the railway board and subsequently arrested.
The proposal, to install digital safety equipment between Church-gate and Ahmedabad, did not go through a mandatory scrutiny by WR’s finance and accounts department.
Incidentally, Bangalore-based GG Tronics, whose MD Narayan Manjunath was arrested for allegedly arranging the bribe amount Kumar had to pay former railway minister PK Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla, is one of the biggest suppliers of such digital safety equipment to the railways.
Between April 9 and April 17, the file for ‘Multi-Section Digital Axle Counters’ moved from the planning stage in the signal and telecom department to Kumar for final approval, bypassing the WR’s finance and accounts department.
Under railway rules, all such proposals have to be vetted by the financial adviser and the chief accounts office before they are passed on to the railway board. But Kumar wrote in his noting that he had approved the proposal and it could be sent to the railway board for inclusion in the supplementary works List slated to be taken up between April 2013 and March 2014.
Multi-Section Digital Axle Counters are electronic equipments that use something called detection points to count the axles of a train on track and then relay to train-runners the presence of trains on a particular stretch in the route.
As per the file cleared by Kumar, between Churchgate and Virar the axle counters were to be set up on 691 track sections at a cost of Rs47 crore. Between Virar and Surat, these counters were to be set up on 572 sections at a cost of Rs52 crore. And between Surat and Ahmedabad on 1017 sections at a cost of Rs113 crore. Nine major yards would also have these counters on 710 track sections. This would cost Rs57 crore.
While WR officials refused to talk, a senior CBI officer said all contracts and promotions that figure in the transcripts of telephone conversations between Kumar and Singla are being investigated. He, however, refused to comment if this project is mentioned in the transcript.