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Sreedharan under cloud of suspicion over Alstom pay off to Delhi Metro Rail!

By M.Y.Siddiqui

As a sequel to an information from the office of Attorney General in Switzerland to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), London U.K.) late in2013 that Alstom Transport India, a British subsidiary of the French multi national train and turbine giant M/s Alstom Infrastructure, paid bribery to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) of Rs. 30 crore over a period of six years from August 2000 to 9th August 2006, when E.Sreedharan was Managing Director of DMRC, and investigation into that bribery by the SFO, the U.K. financial watchdog, has charged the ex MD of the Alstom Transport India, Robert Hallet for his alleged culpability in the alleged bribery to unknown officials of DMRC as inducements or rewards for favour to Alstom Group for award of a contract with the DMRC for Train Control, Signalling and Telecommunications System.

According to the British SFO, the U.K subsidiary of the French multinational infrastructure giant M/S Alston Infrastructure, paid around US dollar 8.5 million in bribes to secure contracts in Delhi, Warsaw (Poland) and Tunis. Major portion of the bribe went to DMRC. The charge was filed in July 2014 at Southwark Crown Court in London and a preliminary hearing held on November 3, 2014. The next hearing of the case will be on January 28, 2015. The deadline for submission of evidence is November 18, 2014.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is investigating bribery of DMRC following a request made to it in January 2013 through Central Vigilance Commission of India (CVC), is in the process of finalizing its report for forwarding it to the British SFO soon, it is learnt from the official sources. The Government of India and Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi own DMRC jointly. The Ministries of Urban Development, Railways, Finance and Planning, and local Delhi Government represent its board of directors. The Union Ministry of Urban Development administers urban transport policy for the country.

E.Sreedharan, currently as MD of Cochin Metro Rail, denied the alleged bribery to DMRC in a recent interview to the Hindu English daily stating the tendering process of DMRC was very strict and transparent with no scope, whatsoever, for corrupt practices. But given his penchant for triggering award for assembling of DMRC coaches, imported from Korean-Japanese consortium and others, at Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML), Bangaluru, a Defence Ministry public undertaking at the cost of Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, which had proven expertise, courtesy then Defence Minister George Fernandes with the connivance of the then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar, a close party cohort then since fallen apart, and managing a lucrative job for his ward in Korea-Japan, one is amused by his uncalled for claimer. It is noteworthy that ICF was prohibited from bidding in a global tender for assembling/manufacturing coaches for DMRC by then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar to suit Sreedharan’s interests. It may be recalled that Sreedharan is a protégée of George Fernandes, who as then Minister of Railways, appointed him as MD of the Konkan Railway Corporation in July 1990, after he retired as Member Engineering, Railway Board, Ministry of Railways, on June 30, 1990. He became celebrity builder of Konkan Railway simply because he was at the helm, although it was the singular loil, toil and skill of great professional engineer B.Rajaram and other unsung professional heroes who worked wonders resulting in a great engineering marvel and at that a great infrastructural engine of growth and prosperity in the hinterlands of the Western Coast.

If there is a dispassionate and meaningful inquiry, the needle of suspicion will point to Sreedharan. But the modus operandi is so subtle, covert, calculated and swift that the truth may never come out as it suits every body. The bribery is on the familiar line of an unrelated third party source for pay off to swing favourable contracts and businesses apart from the usual built-in the system of globalised economy where nothing moves without bribes, cuts, commission, kickbacks and pay offs.

Added to the above, a collusive culture has evolved in the Government to milk the system or to defraud the nation by every body to his or her advantage, making the task of unearthing truth stupendous and highly complex, more so in the development of infrastructures like rail, road, electricity, transport, telecom, ports, waterways, airways, education, health, defence etc. where there is a big money for their development and maintenance. The problem is compounded in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) schemes, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and acquisition of land for development of urban infrastructure, industry and housing. There is rampant corruption in these areas, which is built-in the system. Law or no law, nothing reformatory can work for a transparent and corruption-free system. The ingenuity of man will always scuttle any reforms, as penchant for greed is inherent nature of those manning the system!


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