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Contractors renew commission charge in Karnataka, to write to PM again

The association said it would continue its fight demanding an independent judicial probe

August 25, 2022 05:08 am | Updated 10:07 am IST - Bengaluru:

A delegation of Contractors Association met Opposition leader Siddaramaiah on August 24 in Bengaluru.

A delegation of Contractors Association met Opposition leader Siddaramaiah on August 24 in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The 40% commission charge has again come to the fore to haunt the Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai-led government in Karnataka, with the State contractors association on Wednesday stating that they would be writing another letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard.

The association said it would continue its fight demanding an independent judicial probe.

An association delegation, led by its president D. Kempanna, on Wednesday met Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Siddaramaiah and later alleged that the whole system was corrupt and accused Ministers and MLAs of demanding a percentage.

In his reaction, Mr. Bommai said the association is not the only association of contractors, it is one among several others.

"There is no meaning in his allegations. It should be noted that he has spoken after meeting Siddaramaiah," the Chief Minister said, adding that any baseless statement would be nothing but motivated.

Mr. Bommai said following the concerns raised by the association last time, the government had made certain orders, and even constituted a tender scrutiny committee headed by a retired judge, which no other State has done.

"If they have any specific complaint, they can go before the Lokayukta and give a complaint. The Lokayukta has full freedom, it will investigate and we will take strict action against the guilty, if any," the Chief Minister added.

Mr. Kempanna, meanwhile, accused the Kolar district in-charge Minister, without mentioning names, of threatening officials to collect and get the money.

On his part, Munirathna, denying the allegations and asking for proof, said he would discuss with his lawyers and respond legally on Thursday.

The association had earlier written to the Prime Minister regarding the commission allegation in July last year.

In their letter to Modi, the association had claimed "harassment" by Ministers, elected representatives and others, accusing them of demanding up to 30% of the tender amount for approving a contract, and 5-6% towards release of 'Letter of Credit' against pending bills.

“We have been fighting for a year and two months, nothing has happened so far...People from all parties are involved. Corruption does not belong to BJP alone or Congress or JD(S); all are involved. They are shameless people, they ask for a percentage, are these people our public representatives?” Mr. Kempanna said.

Speaking to reporters here, he said, "It seems that one district in-charge minister tells (officials) if you don't collect the money, I will inspect the work and suspend the executive engineer...there is a need to fight this, so our fight against 40% commission will continue."

He said the association would be writing a letter to the Prime Minister appreciating him for his Independence Day speech that corruption is the first enemy of the nation. He further said, "We will ask him as it has been one year and two months and nothing is happening despite his strong remarks against corruption. Probably, we will forward the letter to the Prime Minister in 15 days."

He said he has not revealed any names and would not share any evidence with anyone for now, as some contractors who have shared information were being harassed. He said he and his team were ready to prove the 40% corruption charge, provided that there is an independent judicial probe.

"Those contractors who shared information are in such a situation today that they are working in someone else's name, because officials are harassing them....get a judicial inquiry done, if we are unable to prove our charges, send us to jail," he said.

He further said they would share evidence and documents to prove their charge only if there is a judicial probe. "If not, we will not share, because I should safeguard the interest of my contractors.

To a query on the district in-charge Minister he referred to, Kempanna said it is Kolar district in-charge Minister (Munirathna), who has threatened to suspend the executive engineer if money is not collected and given. "He is asking officials to collect and get the money."

"He also has threatened to check the three-year-old work with machinery, when no payment has been done for the work for the last three years. He himself has got work done in R R Nagar for ₹10,000 crore in two terms. What improvement has R R Nagar made?" he asked.

Reacting to it, Mr. Munirathna said the allegations against him and the government are politically motivated as it was made as per Siddaramaiah's guidance, after meeting him.

"Give evidence....give an account of 40% and specify with documents. Why are you not going to Lokayukta? It is certain that I will discuss with my lawyers and will respond legally tomorrow (Thursday)," he added.

Noting that the commission charge would be one of the major election issues, Siddaramaiah, who the contractors delegation met on Wednesday, said he would once again demand a judicial probe into the allegations, and also raise the issue on the floor of the Assembly, which is likely to be convened next month.

"By denying a judicial probe, the government is accepting corruption, if not involved why are you afraid of the inquiry? Why take shelter by saying there is no evidence? They are saying that they have so many documents and are ready to produce it before the judicial commission," he said, adding that according to contractors, pending bills are to the tune of over ₹22,000 crore.

Meanwhile, Kempanna said he can't give a ranking on corruption when all MLAs and Ministers are in "number one position" in Karnataka. He said the contractors' association has great respect for Bommai, but there is no value to his words as his orders have been disobeyed by officials.

"The Chief Minister is a good man, but what can he do, when his words are not heeded to?" he asked, as he also alleged that some Ministers were trying to divide the contractors' association.

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