Ayushman Bharat to Dwarka expressway, Congress cites CAG findings to accuse Modi govt of ‘7 scams’

New Delhi: Citing findings published in the latest reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), the Congress Wednesday accused the Modi government of involvement in seven “scams” running into hundreds of crores. The allegations revolved around the Dwarka Expressway and Ayodhya development project, besides the Bharatmala Pariyojana and Ayushman Bharat schemes, among others.

“In the last few days, one has seen seven such cases that CAG has brought to light which smack of rampant corruption in this government. Scam after scam is being unearthed right under Mr Modi’s nose. But Mr Modi chooses to remain silent,” said Supriya Shrinate, chairman of the Congress’s social media and digital platforms wing, during a press conference at the party HQ in Delhi.

1. भारतमाला प्रोजेक्ट की बिडिंग में फर्जीवाड़ा
2. द्वारका एक्सप्रेस-वे में 1 किमी. सड़क बनाने में 250 करोड़ खर्च
3. टोल नियमों का उल्लंघन कर NHAI ने जनता से वसूले 132 करोड़
4. आयुष्मान भारत योजना के 7.5 लाख लाभार्थी एक ही नंबर… pic.twitter.com/jd5cseTv9S

— Congress (@INCIndia) August 16, 2023

Speaking about the Centre’s flagship road development scheme, Bharatmala Pariyojana, Shrinate said that the cost of its construction has doubled to over Rs 32 crore per km from Rs 15.37 crore per km, according to the CAG report. She was referring to the CAG report on ‘Implementation of Phase-1 of Bharatmala Pariyojana’ released last month. 

She added: “Tender process was also flawed. A detailed project report was never submitted. Money to the tune of Rs 3,500 crore was diverted from the escrow account. Safety consultants were not appointed. So you (the public) are responsible if you are travelling on any of the roads, not the government.”

In a question aimed at the prime minister, she asked: “You are the chairman of the CCE (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs). Are you going to open your mouth on the Bharatmala Pariyojana?”

Referring to the same CAG report, Shrinate cited its findings to say that the cost of construction of the Dwarka Expressway project went up to Rs 250 crore per km from Rs 18 crore per km as approved by the CCEA.

“At the cost of constructing two kilometres of Dwarka expressway, a Mangalyaan could have been sent,” she said, referring to India’s first interplanetary mission to Mars launched in 2013 at an estimated cost of Rs 450 crore.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) too found itself on the receiving end of the Congress’s attack.

According to a report released by the government’s auditor earlier this month titled ‘Toll Operations of National Highways Authority of India in Southern India’, toll collection at five toll plazas led to an “undue burden” of Rs 132.05 crore on commuters. For this report, the CAG conducted an audit of 41 randomly selected toll plazas in five southern Indian states.

Shrinate said, “NHAI looted the common citizens of this country to the tune of Rs 132 crore only when five toll plazas were audited. Imagine if every toll plaza in this country is audited, what will the tune of this scam be?”

The Congress’s fourth allegation was based on the CAG’s finding that at least 7.5 lakh beneficiaries of the Ayushman Bharat scheme were registered in its database against the same phone number. “That’s not all. Over 88,000 such patients who died during the treatment… fresh claims were issued… payments were made in their name. Who did that money go to? That’s the big question,” said Shrinate.

In its audit of the tourism ministry’s Swadesh Darshan scheme, the CAG pointed out irregularities in the ‘Ayodhya Development project’, which the Congress cited to allege that the project is “riddled with scams”.

“Money has been issued to contractors who are not even registered. GST payments are coming their way. Who are these people? What are they doing? How come the tendering process is so flawed,” asked Shrinate. 

She also hit out at the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) for diverting funds from the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) — aimed at providing basic financial support to old people, widows and disabled people below the poverty line — for publicising some of its other schemes, as pointed out by the CAG. 

“Money from this scheme was diverted to put hoardings in 19 states in every district on the Swachh Bharat fortnight that they celebrated,” Shrinate said.

Her remarks were aimed at the Swachhata Pakhwada, a fortnightly awareness drive first undertaken by the tourism ministry in April 2016 to raise awareness about the government’s flagship Swachh Bharat programme and maintain cleanliness at tourist destinations around the country.

The last of the seven “scams” mentioned by Shrinate was related to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). “HAL has also been pulled up for a flawed engine design which caused a loss of Rs 154 crore,” she said.

Pointing fingers at Modi, Shrinate asked, “Will you break your silence on CAG scams which are being unearthed right under your nose?”

She added, “I think this is public loot, This is looting the exchequer. This is looting the people of India. And action should be taken.”

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: ‘Incorrect assessment’ led to delays in development of HAL’s intermediate jet trainer, says CAG


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