Third arrest of a top officer in EPF scam: Is UP govt playing on the backfoot?

EPF scam, Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited, Dewan Housing Finance Limited, Congress, BJP, Samajwadi Party
Yogi government claims that the “dubious” decision of transferring massive EPF funds to Dewan Housing Finance Limited or DHFL, was taken by Akhilesh government in April 2014 and the process of investment continued till 2016. Photo: Twitter

With the arrest of former managing director of Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL), AP Mishra on Tuesday (November 5) morning, the investigation in the ₹2,600 crore employees provident fund (EPF) scam in the state energy department, has turned more and more curious.

Today’s arrest comes in the backdrop of the recent arrest of two more officers —PK Gupta, trust secretary, and Sudhanshu Dwivedi, director finance — Saturday night.

The Uttar Pradesh government seems to be under pressure as it has transferred its power secretary and UPPCL managing director, Aparna U to the irrigation department. M Devraj, who recently returned from central deputation, has been appointed as the new power secretary and UPPCL managing director.

Political slugfest continues

The opposition is leaving no stone unturned with the Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party going for an all-out to attack the Yogi Adityanath government and demanding the resignation of Srikant Sharma, Energy Minister.

But, the Yogi government is claiming that the scam had originated under former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s watch. He was heading the state till March 17, 2017, and Yogi Adityanath assumed the office two days later.

Yogi government claims that the “dubious” decision of transferring massive EPF funds to Dewan Housing Finance Limited or DHFL, was taken by Akhilesh government in April 2014 and the process of investment continued till 2016. But fresh documents have revealed that the decision to bring in the private firm was taken well after March 19, 2017, when Yogi Adityanath government had assumed power.

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Although Energy Minister of the state Srikant Sharma is sticking to his old stand that the deal was done in the previous government, the opposition seems to be in no mood to relent.

Following a barrage of tweets from the Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath also took it to Twitter on Tuesday morning and sent out four tweets emphasising that his government has ‘zero tolerance’ against corruption.

The Yogi government has ordered a CBI probe into the scam. Till the CBI formally takes over the probe, the UP police’s economic offences wing (EOW) will probe the case.

Who is AP Mishra?
AP Mishra or Ayodhya Prasad Mishra was appointed as managing director of UPPCL in the previous Akhilesh Yadav government of the state and was known as the blue-eyed boy of the former chief minister. He even wrote a book on Akhilesh Yadav while in service.

Mishra was given three back-to-back service extensions as managing director of Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited in the previous government. Sources say that Mishra tried to get cosy with the Yogi Adityanath but did not succeed.

Yogi, soon after assuming charge as chief minister, had summoned files related to UPPCL and initiated probe. An uncomfortable Mishra resigned as managing director of
UPPCL on March 24, 2017.

Mishra was at the helm of affairs in the state when a company, M/s Variegate Projects Private Limited of Hyderabad was given tenders for six districts of Amethi, Balrampur, Sultanpur, Hardoi, Ambedkar Nagar and Gonda in Uttar Pradesh under the erstwhile Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojna (RGGVY) – which has now been re-named as Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojna (DDUGJY).

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Variegate Projects Private Limited was a blacklisted firm in its home state, Telangana. The bank guarantees it presented before Madhyanchal Vidhyuth Vitharan Nigam Limited (MVVNL), a discom, to get the contracts were found to be forged and fictitious. The company took an advance (mobilisation amount) of ₹78 crore from the discom and simply fled from the state.

Though FIRs were registered and recovery notices were sent to the district magistrate of Hyderabad by the department, no recovery could be conducted and the scam got a quiet burial.

AP Mishra, being close to the then ruling party in the state, was then said to be a one-man army in Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited and as the power portfolio was with the previous chief minister, Mishra enjoyed considerable clout.

Now with the arrest of Mishra, it is expected that apart from the EPF scam, many more skeletons related to UPPCL may tumble out of the cupboard.
UPPCL has invested employees provident fund worth ₹4,000 crore in a private company

Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Limited (DHFL) which has alleged links with
Iqbal Mirchi, an aide of Dawood Ibrahim. While the company had returned ₹1,400 crore, the rest of the money is yet to come back to the state exchequer.

Now CBI probe would focus on the dates on which money was transferred to Dewan Housing Finance Limited.

(Vivek Avasthi is a senior journalist)