Rail Neer racket: CBI seizes Rs.20 crore during searches

New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) The CBI on Friday seized around Rs.20 crore in cash during searches at 13 locations in Delhi and suburban Noida in Uttar Pradesh in connection with an alleged reacket in the supply of packaged drinking water other than the mandatory 'Rail Neer' in premium trains.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said a case has been registered against the then Chief Commercial Manager (Catering) of Northern Railways, M.S. Chalia, and a man named Sandeep Silas.

The agency has also booked private companies - R.K. Associates Pvt. Ltd., Satyam Caterers Pvt. Ltd., Ambuj Hotel and Real Estate, P.K. Associates Pvt. Ltd., Sunshine Pvt. Ltd., Brandavan Food Product and Food World - under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Silas has served as a private secretary to a former union minister.

Sources said Rs.20 crore was allegedly seized from the residence of Shyam Bihari Agrawal and his sons Abhishek Agrawal and Rahul Agarwal, who own R.K. Associates and Brandavan Food Product.

The officials were accused of extending favours to these private firms in the supply of cheap packaged drinking water other than the mandatory 'Rail Neer' in premium trains, including the Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express.

CBI spokesperson Devpreet Singh said the Railway Board had prescribed that the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) shall provide 'Rail Neer' at Rs.10.50 (approx) per bottle to private caterers who would be paid Rs.15 (approx) per bottle for supplying the same to passengers in premium trains.

However, private suppliers, in order to obtain undue gain, were allegedly supplying cheap packaged water, other than 'Rail Neer', available in the market at Rs.5.70 to Rs.7 (approx) per bottle, thereby causing monetary gains to themselves and loss to the exchequer, the official said.

"The accused public servants did not take any action against the private parties providing catering services in the premium trains, despite repeated requests from the IRCTC over non-lifting of allotted quota of 'Rail Neer' by private caterers," the spokesperson said.

The CBI said that Railway Board directions to ensure the supply of 'Rail Neer' in premium trains were ignored by accused officials, causing undue pecuniary advantage to private parties and corresponding loss to the IRCTC.

"Searches were conducted today (Friday) at 13 places in Delhi and Noida, which led to recovery of cash amount of around Rs.20 crore and a large number of incriminating documents," the spokesperson said.

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