Bengaluru: Karnataka State Contractors’ Association (KSCA) which has accused elected representatives and bureaucrats of demanding ’40 per cent commission’ for awarding contracts and clearing bills, on Wednesday said they stand by their allegations and asked the government to form an inquiry commission if they have ‘guts’.
Demanding that the government clear Rs 25,000 crore pending bills, they have said, if not cleared by March 31, they will halt all the work.
The contractors under the leadership of the association’s president D Kempanna held a protest here, demanding that the government clear their dues at the earliest.
They also demanded a probe by a sitting judge of the Karnataka High Court into allegations of bribes or corruption. Earlier this week, the association accused a BJP MLA of taking kickbacks to clear bills, releasing an audio clip as evidence.
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”For about one-and-half years we have been fighting on the issue of corruption, but it was alleged that we have been lying and don’t have any documents to prove. We had reason not to release documents, but amid pressure we released one test case and there are similar several such cases. We have given all documents regarding 40 per cent commission to our lawyer and he will submit them before the court,” Kempanna said.
Speaking to reporters here, he said that Contractors’ bills to the tune of Rs 25,000 crore are pending for the last three years.
Repeated requests have been made to the government to discuss the issues and to find a solution by following a system. ”They give contracts to whomever they want. The Chief Minister (Basavaraj Bommai) does not have a paisa’s value. The CM had issued some orders, but without giving any value to it, contracts are being given to whomsoever they want,” Kempanna said.
”By March 31 if they don’t clear our dues, we will try to halt all the work. We have been told that dues will be cleared as much as possible by then. If they clear all the dues, we will be happy,” he added.
The association had earlier in July 2021 had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with regard to 40 per cent commission charge. In their letter to Modi, the association had claimed ”harassment” by Ministers, elected representatives and others, accusing them of demanding up to 30 per cent of the tender amount for approving a contract, and 5-6 per cent towards release of ‘Letter of Credit’ against pending bills.
Stating that the allegations made by them are 100 per cent true and will stand by what they have said and will fight against corruption, Kempanna said that their lawyer has asked them not to make any specific statement on the issue on corruption, and that he would look after it in the court.
”If the government has guts let it form an inquiry commission. If we are unable to prove we will do as they say,” he added.
Karnataka Horticulture Minister Muniratna had filed a criminal defamation suit against Kempanna and a few of the association’ office-bearers, following the allegations made by the latter against him. Kempanna was even arrested in connection with this.
Kempanna made it clear, their contractors’ body doesn’t have association with any party- Congress, BJP or JD(S), and that it was meant only for the welfare of the contractors.
Lamenting that the Prime Minister has not acted on their letter alleging corruption, he said, ”Modi is not corrupt, but he has allowed others to eat (indulge in corruption) in Karnataka.” ”Corruption has already been there, but since 2019 there has been an abnormal increase from 10 to 40 per cent, it has been a great concern. For the last one-and-half years, we have been fighting corruption, not just ahead of elections as is being alleged,” he said.
Suggesting that there is wrong perception among the public about contractors, Kempanna said, they think us to be ”420s” (cheets) and looters. ”How can we do our job right by paying 40 per cent commission, please understand our difficulty.” He said, the association will hold protests across the State to highlight their issues to the public and make them aware of it.
”Let them do an inquiry. Most of the work is being executed either by MLAs or politicians, their close aides and people known to them, despite them not being qualified. This is what we are fighting against. This is high time to raise voice and we will fight,” he added.