TAMIL NADU

Raids on houses of Salem officials, politicians

SALEM, DEC. 22. Incriminating documents bearing testimony to acquisition of property well beyond the means of officials and politicians were seized in raids conducted yesterday by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption personnel in connection with an alleged borewell scandal in the Salem Corporation, DVAC sources said.

Even the residences of two former Commissioners and those who occupied top positions in the Corporation were not spared in the searches conducted simultaneously at 28 places, including in Chennai, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Certain officials had acquired palatial bungalows in a posh locality, mango groves and shopping complexes.

One official had put Rs 13 lakhs in a fixed deposit, whose maturity value would be Rs 26 lakhs, the sources said.

Not less than four cases, involving various sections of the Corporation, were filed in court.

While the decision to sink hundreds of borewells was taken at a meeting of the previous council and it got the nod of the former Mayor, Dr G. Soodamani, it is the engineering division, which seems to be bearing the major brunt, for it happens to be the implementing agency.

The then AIADMK Councillor, Mr Se. Venkatachalam, (Now MLA) who raked up the issue, filed a case before the Madras High Court alleging that while the actual depth of a well was just 120-150 feet, the bill was claimed by the contractors in connivance with officials and politicians for the sanctioned depth of 400 feet.

The court deputed a team to carry out random physical verification of the borewells.

However, during the Assembly elections, the AIADMK did not make the `scam' a poll issue.

A section of opinion has it that though the council might have approved the sinking of deep borewells, the engineering division should have strictly monitored the execution of the project and verified the veracity of the contractor(s)' claims that the borewells had been dug up to the stipulated depth.

At the same time, the officials were proceeding with the investigation on the presumption that those who occupied elevated positions could not say their responsibility ended with taking a decision, and that only field level officials should be hauled up.