Officers' panel to probe Loktak 'anomalies'

Imphal, Nov. 30: The Okram Ibobi Singh government has constituted an officers' committee to look into allegations that irregularities were committed by the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) in awarding the contract to a firm to clear Loktak lake.

The Loktak Development Authority, chaired by Ibobi Singh, awarded the Rs 224-crore contract to K. Pro Infra Works Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of the Hyderabad-based Progressive Construction Ltd, on August 1, 2009.

The company began work in January 2010 and the completion target is March next year.

The work involved cleaning of 132 lakh cubic metres of phumdi (floating bio-mass).

The project is a part of the state government's plan to clean the water and environment of the 236.21 square km lake, which spreads across three districts of Imphal West, Bishnupur and Thoubal.

An official source said the officers' committee was constituted in a meeting last night, following instructions from the chief minister, immediately after his return from a foreign tour yesterday.

The principal secretary, finance, Barun Mitra, who is also the principal secretary in the chief minister's office, heads the committee.

The committee will probe the process of awarding the contract and also progress of the work.

The move followed a recent directive from the National Human Rights Commission, which had directed the Ibobi Singh government to conduct an inquiry into the project after the matter was referred by the Manipur State Human Rights Commission.

The state commission took up the case after Loktak lake dwellers ' who were evicted by the state government as part of the clearing project ' lodged a complaint against the eviction.

In addition to the complaint, Opposition parties have been demanding a CBI inquiry into the project, alleging that there were irregularities in awarding the contract.

Earlier this month, seven non-Congress parties took the Loktak project and other cases of alleged corrupt practices before leaders of national non-Congress parties, urging them to highlight "misdeeds" under the Ibobi Singh government in Parliament.

The parties, including the BJP, CPI, CPM, Trinamul Congress, JD (U), JD (S) and Manipur Peoples Party, are demanding a CBI inquiry into the Loktak project.

The BJP welcomed the constitution of the officers' committee.

However, the party continued to insist upon a CBI probe into the project.

"The setting up of the officers' committee demonstrated that our charges are not without foundation. We still want an inquiry by an independent body like the CBI or a sitting judge of the Supreme Court or Gauhati High Court. The officers are under the chief minister. Therefore, we do not see any positive outcome," BJP Manipur unit president Shantikumar Sharma said.

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