He ran three prime authorities dealing with land in the national capital region. His story reveals why India’s biggest state remains mired in mis-governance
Vivek Avasthi | October 9, 2015
He was the single-window counter for all builders, big-time contractors and land sharks operating in Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway areas. He was the de-facto broker-cum-commission agent of three land-rich authorities of the national capital region (NCR).
He reported directly to the ‘Pancham Tal’, or the fifth floor of Annexe Bhawan of Lucknow – the power centre of Uttar Pradesh as it has the office of the chief minister and his influential team of secretaries.
He was a money spinner and a mobile bank. Mr. Thirty Percent, as he was famously known, had huge projects in hand which were doled out to his favourite gang of contractors at commissions ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent, depending on the profit margin of the specific project. He had mastered the art of minting money and the pie was distributed from the top to the bottom. No one in the system was left out dissatisfied. A major pound of flesh was allocated for his political masters whom he always kept in good humour. Such was his power and influence that the wedding of his daughter took place in the Noida stadium, which is otherwise out of bounds for the general public for such functions and has witnessed only a few marriage ceremonies.
He is said to have given to his cronies contracts worth over '10,000 crore and facilitated allotment of group housing, commercial, industrial and institutional plots to many top-ranking builders in Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway – till time ran out for him. Like every story, this one too reached its anti-climax when finally someone spilled the beans. Investigating agencies swung into action and unearthed more than they had expected in their wildest dreams. With each passing day, more and more information is unravelling and now they say that this could just be the tip of the iceberg.
This is a small introduction of none other than the former engineer-in-chief of Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway authorities, Yadav Singh. Such was his clout with the Uttar Pradesh government and the CM’s secretariat that he ensured that two CEOs of Noida got shunted out within minutes, as soon as he felt that they were trying to curtail his powers.
The first casualty was Balwinder Kumar, whose tenure as CEO Noida lasted just 102 days. Kumar, in his short stint in Noida, was credited with defusing the resentment of farmers by ensuring that they get ‘abadi’ or residential land due to them for years in lieu of their farm lands acquired by the government. Kumar also made the citizen charter for Noida and made Noida properties available online. He was shifted out on November 1, 2011, as he obstructed Yadav Singh’s path, sources say.
The second CEO of Noida to be transferred out was Captain SK Dwivedi. He served as CEO for about four months, till March 2012, when Akhilesh Yadav had just come to power in the state. Dwivedi earned the wrath of Yadav Singh as he clipped the latter’s wings by divesting him from the charge of two powerful departments of planning as well as projects of Noida. Dwivedi handed over the charge of these departments to another official, Hom Singh Yadav. Sources say that within minutes of passing this order, Dwivedi got a call from a senior official from the CM secretariat expressing anger at his decision and asking him to withdraw this order immediately. Further, he was told to go and ‘pay a visit’ to a senior Samajwadi Party functionary living in NCR and apprise him the order against Yadav Singh had been recalled. Adamant on sticking to his stand, Dwivedi was sent packing to Lucknow to a rather low-profile posting, within hours.
Belonging to a humble Jatav family in Agra, Yadav Singh is the second oldest of five brothers. His ancestral house in Nandpura area of Agra is in a shambles and no one lives there now. He built a new house called ‘Hari Kothi’ in Amit Vihar area of Agra where his younger brother Kapur Chand stays with his family.
People in Nandpura recall him as an introvert person who had few or no friends. He did not have an engineering degree but managed to get a diploma in electrical engineering before joining the Noida authority as a junior engineer in 1980.
Yadav Singh was promoted to the post of assistant project engineer in 1985. The promotion raised a storm within the Noida authority, as it superseded 20 assistant project engineers – and that too with a rider that he should get an engineering degree within three years. It was quite evident that Yadav Singh had in his early days mastered the art of pulling political strings to his advantage because as per rules only a junior engineer with 15 years of service experience can be promoted to the rank of assistant project engineer but Yadav Singh achieved this feat in just five years, that too without having an engineering degree.
It was in 1995 that he was elevated to the post of project engineer. Since then Uttar Pradesh has seen six chief ministers from three political parties: Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh of the BJP, Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party. But Yadav Singh was comfortable with every regime and this showed that he was never weak at political management.
He became the blue-eyed boy of Mayawati and was appointed chief project engineer in 2002. This post is equivalent to chief engineer level-II. This was even more unprecedented and Yadav Singh rose further in the power corridors. In 2007, when Mayawati stormed back into power, Yadav Singh was made the engineer-in-chief of Noida. Obviously, he had very ‘cordial relations’ with the higher-ups of the party.
Later, one of his diaries seized during the 2014 income-tax raids revealed suspicious financial dealings with political figures – supposedly BSP leaders – named “Bhai Sahab” and “Panditji”. Sources say that “Bhai Sahab” refers to Mayawati’s brother Anand Kumar and “Panditji” is the pseudonym for Satish Awana alias Pappu Awana, a BSP MLC and resident of Noida. The BSP leadership has consistently denied any involvement with Yadav Singh.
When there was a change of guard in Uttar Pradesh and Samajwadi Party came into power in 2012, RP Singh, an engineer with Noida authority, filed an FIR against colleague Yadav Singh under various sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act. Allegations were that during the previous BSP regime, Yadav Singh had passed a tender to the tune of '954 crore for an underground cable-laying mega project. It was alleged that the tender work was started even before the tendering process could be complete.
The state government immediately placed Yadav Singh under suspension and a CB-CID enquiry was initiated against him. Soon, he was exonerated by the CB-CID which stated that “no financial loss to the exchequer was found”. This was enough an example to show that Yadav Singh had not wasted much time in making inroads in the new regime.
Within no time, he was reinstated and again in February 2014, he was made engineer-in-chief of Noida authority. In November, he was given the additional charge of Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway authorities as well, earning him the distinction of becoming the first engineer-in-chief of the state to have all three authorities in his kitty. The total development fund of the three authorities totals '20 crore a year.
Yadav Singh is known for his lavish lifestyle and organising parties for high-profile people every now and then. Free flow of expensive foreign liquor was a salient feature of his parties which were attended by top officials of the Uttar Pradesh government, big businessmen, contractors and builders of the NCR.
Yadav Singh’s ancestral house in Nandpura, Agra
Yadav Singh had a penchant for luxurious offices. In the premises of the Noida administrative office building in Sector 6, Noida, he got made for himself an office no less big and posh than the office of the CEO and that too with a separate entrance. He got two more luxurious offices made for himself, one in Sector 39 where the electrical department of Noida is located and the other at Sector 5 where the office of chief maintenance engineer (CME, water) is situated. It is a different story that he used to go to the Sector 39 and Sector 5 offices only once in a while but it definitely goes on to show that no one in Noida authority dared to challenge him.
In Noida, his first home was in Sector 27, opposite the Jain temple, but he later shifted to a posh bungalow in upscale Sector 51. The total cost of this luxurious bungalow is said to about '5 crore.
Yadav Singh and his wife Kusum Lata have two daughters and a son. While one daughter is married to an IAS officer of the UP cadre, the other is the wife of an IPS officer of Jharkhand cadre. His son, Sunny, is posted as an assistant project engineer in Greater Noida authority and is married to the daughter of an official of the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority. One of his brothers, Gyan Chand, is an assistant law officer with the Noida authority.
Another interesting fact of this case relates to the Noida stadium in Sector 21A which is maintained by the Noida authority. It is not open for booking for general public to host weddings and private ceremonies. The stadium has till date witnessed only six marriage functions: three of children of BSP functionaries, one of a Samajwadi Party MLA and the most recent is that of the daughter of a minister of the Modi cabinet. Yadav Singh is also a member of this elite club as the wedding of his daughter took place at this exclusive venue in 2009.
It was curtains down for Yadav Singh when IT sleuths swooped down on his properties in Noida on November 27, 2014. Raids recovered '10 crore in cash and two kg of diamond-studded gold ornaments. Investigations revealed there were 40 companies registered in the name of his wife Kusum Lata and 20 buildings in Noida, Ghaziabad and Delhi in Yadav Singh’s name. Some of these companies were into garment exports as their front business but were involved in land deals.
Yadav Singh’s Hari Kothi in Agra
Land was purchased at throwaway prices, using the clout of Yadav Singh, and later sold at prevailing market rates. Yadav Singh is also said to have allotted 32 plots in a total of 319 farm house plots in his and his family members’ names in 2011-12. Investigations also revealed that Kusum Lata had purchased large chunks of land in her native place, Firozabad district of Uttar Pradesh.
The enforcement directorate also swung into action and a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act has been registered as agencies have got evidence that the couple has illegally moved assets abroad.
After the raids, Yadav Singh was placed under suspension and in February 2015, a one-member judicial commission was set up by the state government to probe into the multi-crore scam. But in July 2015, the Allahabad high court directed the CBI to investigate the case as “allegations were most serious and the probe was complex”. The UP government approached the supreme court against the high court order but the supreme court refused to entertain the plea. Initially, it surprised many to see the UP government trying to shield Yadav Singh from a CBI enquiry, but things soon became crystal clear.
CBI sleuths raiding Yadav Singh’s Hari Kothi in Agra
Further investigations have revealed Yadav Singh’s close connections with the top Samajwadi Party leadership. Records of a firm owned by Yadav Singh’s associate Rejendra Kumar Minocha showed that 9,995 shares of his company called NM Buildwell were given to Samajwadi Party’s Firozabad MP Akshay Yadav, the son of party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, who is also the cousin of party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Minocha is said to be a partner of Yadav Singh’s wife Kusum Lata and the SUV from which '10 crore were recovered from Yadav Singh’s house belonged to Minocha. [Also see accompanying report]
Political circles are abuzz with the gossip that Samajwadi Party leaders got many benefits from Yadav Singh in their futile bid to save him from a CBI enquiry. It is being said that two benami properties of Yadav Singh, a hotel in Sector 37 of Noida and a residential plot in upscale Sector 44 of Noida, had been transferred in fictitious names to benefit his present political masters.
Kirit Somaiya, BJP MP from Mumbai North-East, had filed written complaints about this corruption nexus to the president of India, governor of Uttar Pradesh, CBI and the Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh in November 2011. When contacted, Somaiya said he had even sent a copy of the complaint to Akhilesh Yadav when he assumed office of the chief minister in 2012. Somaiya said, “I am shocked that with the help of all the documents provided by me, the present state government has bargained with Yadav Singh and now it has come out that they have entered into an unwritten MoU where large chunks of benefit, which arrived out of Yadav Singh and shared earlier with the Mayawati government, are now being shared with Akhilesh Yadav’s party.”
Yadav Singh is now out of favour, fallen from grace and disowned completely by his political godfathers. He is a glaring example of how politicians use and throw government servants. The elite class of builders and contractors of this region, who once longed to meet or speak to Yadav Singh, now fear even taking his name in public. There is a long list of such persons who took undue favours from him but now have left him high and dry as they fear that any connection with him may land them into trouble with CBI.
(The story appears in the October 1-15, 2015 issue)