Tragic Murder of Shri S.K.Dubey, Dy.GM, NHAI, in Gaya, Bihar
Response from the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways

(as appeared in The Hindu, dated 15th December 2003, Chennai edition, page 13)

Shri S.K. Dubey, Dy. General Manager (Technical), National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), posted at Gaya, was murdered in the early hours of 27 November 2003. A series of articles and news items have appeared on this unfortunate incident. These have understandably created a sense of shock and an outpouring of sympathy for Shri Dubey. His loss is deeply mourned by his colleagues in NHAI as well as by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways.

In his tribute to Shri Dubey, Honourable Prime Minister has called him "an upright and dedicated officer" and assured the nation that "those responsible for his death, wherever they may be, will not be spared". The case has already been handed over to the CBI for an impartial enquiry.

However, a section of the media, without highlighting all the relevant facts of the matter, has drawn misleading inferences on the cause of Shri Dubey’s murder. Its coverage has also sought to project the functioning of the NHAI and the Government in a negative light, showing them to be insensitive and callous about the safety of the personal working on the National Highways Development Project (NHDP), which is India’s proud infrastructure project.

The main thrust of this coverage has been that Shri Dubey was murdered because the office of the Prime Minister, to whom he had addressed a letter in November 2002, alleging systematic deficiencies in the execution of the NHDP and corrupt practices of contractors as well as officials in NHAI, breached the confidentiality of that letter in spite of his request that secrecy be maintained about his identity. To substantiate this inference, it has been reported that the letter was sent in a routine manner by the PMO to the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and onwards to NHAI. This grave insinuation is as untenable as it is unfair.

Did PMO or MoRTH disclose his identity in any way? No.
Is his murder linked to any action of PMO or MoRTH? No.

The facts about the above-mentioned letter are as follows:-

  1. The letter received by the PMO on November 11, 2002 was unsigned and undated;
  2. The sheet enclosed to the letter giving Shri Dubey’s name and particulars was also unsigned;
  3. The letter was received in an ordinary cover and was neither addressed by name nor sealed.
The PMO receives between 400-500 letters every day, of which a significant number are anonymous or improperly identified letters alleging irregularities and corruption. The PMO has no way of knowing the genuineness of these letters, nor is its function to take action on their specific contents. The latter is the responsibility of the concerned administrative ministry. In the past, some of these letters, especially those without proper identification, have been found to be fake and written with a malicious intent to harm the person in whose name it is sent or the persons/institutions mentioned in it. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has instructed all government departments that anonymous or improperly identified letters should not be acted upon.

However, since Shri Dubey’s letter carried an annexure that gave his name and address, and contained seemingly important observations on the implementation of NHDP, the PMO forwarded it to the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways for appropriate action. If anything, this shows the responsiveness of the PMO.

The passing on of Shri Dubey’s letter within the governmental system – from the PMO to the concerned administrative ministry does not constitute "breach of confidentiality". Indeed, the PMO did the right thing by doing so, especially since Shri Dubey had said in the concluding para of his letter that "if any elaboration/clarification is needed on above issues I would be glad to render all my assistance in the interest of this very prestigious National Highway Development Project, which is undoubtedly the biggest ever project undertaken in India after Independence." (Emphasis added)

Similarly, neither MoRTH nor NHAI disclosed Shri Dubey’s identity in any manner. As his letter to PMO was unsigned, the Chief Vigilance Officer of NHAI called Shri Dubey to ascertain whether the letter was indeed written by him. He confirmed this. It is also worth noting here that Shri Dubey, in his letter to the Manager (Vigilance), NHAI, dated February 2, 2003, said, "I confirm having written the said letter. The letter intended to be addressed to the Chairman, NHAI with only a copy endorsed to the office of PMO was inadvertently addressed to the PMO. The letter was also addressed and sent to Chairman, NHAI." This clearly shows that Shri Dubey had already, on his own, disclosed his identity to the head of his own organization. Hence, the accusation that the PMO "disclosed" Shri Dubey's identity by passing on his letter to MoRTH is both bizarre and false.

The section of the media that has made this accusation has failed to take note of the important fact that besides the letter to the Prime Minister, Shri Dubey had also sent several communications to local officers of NHAI and consultants. While his letter to the Prime Minister had raised mainly general issues about perceived procedural shortcomings in the implementation of NHDP, his local communications were very specific. These communications were not marked secret. Therefore, it is not proper to link Shri Dubey’s murder to the letter he addressed to the Prime Minister more than a year earlier.

Like many of his colleagues, Shri Dubey had been very vigilant in implementation of sections under his jurisdiction of Koderma Project Implementation Unit. He was diligently pointing out lapses in execution or supervision of works to the Project Director concerned of the NHAI, to the contractor as well as to the supervision consultant. Between Dec, 2002 and August 2003 Shri Dubey made four major specific reports, in writing, against the personnel of the contractor and the supervisory consultant.

Responding to these specific Reports of Shri Dubey, the Koderma Project Implementation Unit of NHAI removed four engineers and two lab assistants of the Contractor and Supervision Consultant. Based on the shortcomings pointed out, nearly a kilometer of substandard granular sub base layer of the road was asked to be completely dug up and re-laid.

How did MoRTH and NHAI respond to Shri Dubey’s letter to PMO? In an exemplary manner.

Media reports have not highlighted how NHAI acted on Shri Dubey’s letter to PMO. The Vigilance Office of NHAI merely cautioned him of the impropriety he had committed in writing directly to the Prime Minister. However, Shri Dubey was not penalized for writing directly to the Prime Minister. On the contrary, on 31 October, 2003, he was promoted to the post of Dy. General Manager in the NHAI in recognition of his professional competence and his courageous, conscientious and persistent efforts to improve the implementation of the work on NHDP at his level. This point, which has not been highlighted in media reports, again shows how NHAI was and continues to be – appreciative of an honest and committed officer like Shri Dubey.

Shri Dubey’s letter was taken with all seriousness. NHAI officials at the headquarters fully shared Shri Dubey’s concerns and views regarding the need to improve various activities in NHDP such as preparation of Detailed Project Reports, award of civil works, etc. He was called to NHAI headquarters with a view to obtaining specific details in this matter. Also, suitable corrective action was initiated on several points contained in his communications.

NHAI’s own proactive action to improve the implementation of NHDP

The NHAI itself was fully alive to the shortcomings of the existing systems and had already initiated a series of measures to improve upon the procedures. In a gigantic and first-of-its-kind project like the NHDP, involving upgradation of over 14,000 km of national highways at the cost of Rs. 58,000 crore within a tight timeframe, there is always scope for improvement and refinement. Here are some of the proactive steps taken by NHAI.

  1. The NHAI has been following internationally approved procurement procedures, which are open and transparent. It follows the Federation Internationale des Ingenieurs Conseils (FIDIC) conditions in implementing the NHDP.
  2. The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways had already constituted a Committee on 24 July 2001 under the Chairmanship of a retired Director General of Roads to streamline the procedure, documentation and to prepare manuals to facilitate better implementation of NHDP. Another Committee headed by Member (Technical), NHAI was constituted on 10 December, 2002 which has reviewed the procedures and finalized model documents and has suggested further improvements in the prequalification of consultants for preparation of Detailed Project Reports, evaluation of bids & actual preparation of the Reports.
  3. A similar exercise has been done for prequalification of contractors. NHAI is also undertaking quality audit of its projects through M/s Engineers India Ltd. It jas also appointed M/s PriceWaterhouseCoopers as the Internal Auditors for NHAI as well as Project Implementation Units (PIUs).
The poor law and order situation in Bihar

Media reports have not taken into account the serious law and order problem existing in Bihar, where Shri Dubey was working. It is a matter of record that personnel employed in implementation of the NHDP in Bihar have been under constant threat. To cite a few instances,

NHDP is being simultaneously implemented in many states in the country. It is a verifiable fact that those working on the project in other states are not facing the kind of insecurity and intimidation from criminal and extortionist gangs as in Bihar.

Minister's letter to the CM of Bihar on the law and order problem

Between March 2002 and November 2003, the Minister of Road Transport & Highways has written as many as five letters to the Chief Minister of Bihar expressing concern over the law and order problems in the State and urging her urgent attention to the severity of the situation. He had also spoken to her on many occasions and said that unless law and order problem was addressed earnestly it would be difficult to implement NHDP in Bihar in an effective and timely manner.

It may be noticed that, in his first letter dated 15 March, 2002 that is, well before Shri Dubey’s letter to the Honourable PM, the Minister had pointed out to the Chief Minister of Bihar that the people working on NHDP on National Highway No. 2 "are getting repeated threats on the telephone and warnings of dire consequences in the absence of their not fulfilling demands. Recently, armed personnel attacked a camp and detonated explosives and fired gun shots. This has caused an atmosphere of fear and terror and is coming in the way of progress of the work."

The NHDP Phase I (comprising mainly the Golden Quadrilateral) is progressing very satisfactorily in most States. Out of a total length of 5846 kms, 2005 kms has already been four laned. The target, 96% completion by December, 2004 is likely to be achieved. However, the progress in Bihar has been delayed mainly because of the law and order problem. The status of the projects in Bihar as on 30 November 2003 is as follows:

NHDP Projects in Bihar
Mohania – Sasaram70%21%
Sasaram – Dehri-on-Sone46%5%
Dehri-on-Sone – Aurangabad65%43%
Aurangabad – Barachatti42%12%

Shri Dubey will be remembered for his honesty, dedication and professional commitment to the National Highways Development Project. The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, as well as the National Highways Authority of India, reiterate their commitment to speedy implementation of the NHDP, without any compromise on the quality of construction, and help realize the collective dream of all Indians. In this, we appeal to State Governments to ensure proper security for the project personnel.

Ministry of Road Transport & Highways
National Highways Authority of India

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