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By the Way

Secretary Agriculture in soup

The way scandals are being exposed and probed, it seems the system is losing its grip on checks and balances. What one can say when hears of Union agriculture secretary Sanjay Agarawal and the chairman of the UP Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL) Alok Kumar, coming under the scanner for alleged fraud of `2,267 crore of Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Limited? The scam happened irrespective of known facts about DHFL’s maligned reputation. Agarawal, a 1984-batch IAS officer and the agriculture secretary since October 2018, was the chairman of UPPCL as well as the UP Power Employees Trust from 2013 till May 2017. Records seized by the Economic Offences Wing of the UP Police reveal that the UP Power Employees Trust sought a quotation from DHFL on March 15, 2017, on the interest rates offered by it and from two other entities on March 16, 2017, and decided the same evening to invest employee retirement funds in DHFL. On March 17, the first transfer of `18 crore was made to DHFL. A meeting of the UP Power Employees Trust was called on March 22 to ratify this decision – this was the first meeting of the trust in 11 years. Records show this meeting was attended by then chairman Sanjay Agarawal, then MD AP Mishra, then director (finance) Sudhanshu Trivedi, then general secretary Pravin Kumar Gupta and director Satyaprakash Pandey and all of them signed on the decision to invest in DHFL. Mishra attended this meeting, even as he had resigned on March 16. His resignation was accepted by the Yogi Adityanath government on March 23, four days after it was sworn in. The records show the date of the said meeting was altered in records subsequently to March 24, in an alleged attempt to shield Mishra. The state police has arrested Mishra, Trivedi and Gupta while Pandey is no more. Agarawal is silent on the issue and not responding the queries of journal-ists. The present UPPCL chairman, Alok Kumar, a 1988-batch IAS officer who took over from Agarawal in May 2017, is also under the scanner as he allegedly did not inform the UP government about the complaint received against the investment in DHFL in July and the contents of the inquiry report in August. Kumar is also the chairman of UP Power Employees Trust whose money was invested in DHFL. Agarawal has been in the running to become UP chief secretary. The investigating officers may also question another IAS officer, Vishal Chauhan, who served as the MD of UPPCL briefly between March-September 2017 and is now on study leave in London. His successor, IAS officer Aparna U, was removed as UPPCL MD

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