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The Hindu
The Hindu
Staff Reporter

Contractors’ association threatens to strike work, expose Ministers, MLAs

The Karnataka State Contractors’ Association (KSCA) that has been alleging “unprecedented 40% kickbacks” in State Government contracts has threatened to strike work for a month and “expose the corruption of five to six Ministers and 20-25 MLAs”, if Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai does not convene a meeting and resolve the issue in the next fortnight.

The KSCA has announced a mega protest rally in Bengaluru on May 25, where 50,000 contractors are expected to participate.

Earlier complaints

On the controversy over contractor and BJP worker Santosh K. Patil, who was found dead in Udupi after accusing Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister K.S. Eshwarappa of corruption, D. Kempanna, president of the KSCA, said there had been complaints against Mr. Eshwarappa earlier too, but no contractor except Patil had dared to take a public stand.

“Multiple contractors had approached us with complaints against Mr. Eshwarappa, as to how high the kickbacks in his department were and how without adhering to these steep rates, no bills were being cleared. I asked the contractors to give it to us in writing, so that we could officially take it up. But they were scared. After Santosh Patil’s letter became public, we from the association wrote to Mr. Bommai on the issue, but to no avail,” Mr. Kempanna said.

On the larger allegation of 40% kickback being demanded by those in power, he said, “Our multiple letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then Chief Ministers B.S. Yediyurappa, and Mr. Bommai have failed to elicit any response, leave alone resolution of the issue. BJP worker Patil made similar allegations and sadly ended his life. This cannot go on forever. We are now forced to act.” He was speaking after an emergency meeting of KSCA office-bearers in light of the contractor’s death.

He alleged that corruption had reached a point where Ministers were themselves asking for bribes and collecting money and not through agents. He claimed they had evidence to prove corruption charges against “five to six Ministers and 20-25 MLAs” and would make it public if the issue was not resolved soon.

Part of the nexus

He accepted that contractors were also in the wrong for being part of the nexus and paying kickbacks for ages now. “Earlier the kickback was in the range of 5-10%, but it has now crossed all bounds to over 40%, with the expectation to pay 10-15% even for the contract to be awarded,” he said.

The association has demanded an impartial inquiry into the death of Patil by either the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or a retired Supreme Court or High Court judge. The association has also demanded that the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department settle pending ₹4 crore of Patil, pay his family ₹2 crore compensation and give his wife a government job. “We want Mr. Eshwarappa to be immediately sacked as a Minister and booked for pushing the contractor to death,” the association said in a statement.

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