Electrification works on Itarsi-Allahabad hits hurdle as CBI lodges probe into corruption charges

Bhopal: CBI on Saturday lodged a preliminary enquiry (PE) to probe corruption in electrification of key Itarsi-Allahabad railway route. The 605km Naini-Manikpur-Katni-Itarsi route and 479km Katni-Singrauli-Garwa stretch were identified for electrification under Vision 2020 – a blueprint for Railway Electrification Programme. The project was delayed for several years due to political interference before the contract was given to Delhi-based M/s CIPL-Cobra.

In September, CBI kickstarted a probe into 189-km track between Jabalpur and Satna districts, following allegations that flawed erection of electric poles may lead to rail accidents.

CIPL-Cobra had bagged Rs 150-crore contract of Itarsi-Allahabad rail route electrification work from West-Central Railways (WCR) in 2013 for 36 months and work is in progress. CIPL is a multi-national company working with Cobra in India.

During a joint surprise check conducted by CBI’s Jabalpur unit and WCR’s vigilance at Maihar and Satna on Saturday, investigators found poles erected without proper base.

“Foundation is important for stability of overhead line poles. Many poles were installed without foundation. They may collapse on tracks during heavy rains and trigger rail accidents,” said a senior railway officer. Senior WCR engineers have also come under CBI scanner for releasing payment to company without testing or checking installation work. “There are 33 poles in every one km distance. We think many poles have to be re-erected,” said the officer.

After this was brought to their notice, the company was ready to replace poles that did not meet parameters.

CBI, however, decided to go ahead with an inquiry. “CBI is already understaffed. Checking each and every pole on 500 km stretch is not an easy task. And then the inquiry will take about five years, stalling the crucial electrification project,” said a railway official privy to information. He said the agency should have considered the company’s plea to replace the wrong pole so that work could have been completed. CBI brass, however, feels an inquiry was necessary to bust corruption.

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