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Home » Dance » CBI Books Ace Bharatnatyam Dancer Leela Samson Over Graft Charges 

CBI Books Ace Bharatnatyam Dancer Leela Samson Over Graft Charges 

The CBI has booked ace Bharatnatyam dancer and former Chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi, Leela Samson for alleged “unfruitful expenditure” in Rs 7.02-crore renovation project of Koothambalam auditorium of Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, officials said Saturday.

According to PTI, Samson has been booked along with the then officers of the Foundation: Chief Accounts Officer TS Murthi, Accounts Officer S Ramachandran, Engineering officer V Srinivasan and proprietor of CARD and Chennai Engineers.

In a complaint to the CBI, the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Culture Ministry has alleged that the officials of the Foundation awarded the contract for the renovation work to consultant architect CARD in violation of General Finance Rules (GFR).

After conducting an inquiry in 2016, the Culture Ministry alleged that the 84-year old Foundation had spent Rs 62.20 lakh over the estimated cost on the Rs 7.02-crore project.

According to the FIR, the estimation given by the Central Public Works Department revealed that the contracts were awarded at a higher rate and the payments made to the contractors accordingly.

Samson was the Director of the Foundation between May 06, 2005, and April 30, 2012. It was felt in 2006 that the auditorium built by the Foundation in 1985 needed renovation, they said.

The project aimed to upgrade the sound system of the Koothambalam auditorium, built-in 1985, followed by civil engineering works, electrical works, air conditioning and architectural features, the CBI FIR said.

The 33rd Governing Body meeting held in 2009 decided to form a civil works advisory committee and PT Krishnan, Leela Samson and Madhavi Mudgal were to prepare necessary estimation based on the recommendations of the Governing Board, it said.

Koothambalam auditorium of Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai | PC: Kalakshetra website

The civil works committee appointed CARD as consultant architect in 2010 which gave contracts for 28 renovation works to five contractors while committee also selected some contractors, it said.

The ministry alleged in the complaint that the open tender process was not followed in awarding the contracts.

It also alleged that Samson failed to apprise the non-official members of the Works Committee about the GFR norms and inform the Works Committee about the CAG Inspection Report received in August 2011.

“Instead, approval of the Works Committee was obtained for two major expenditures in September and December 2011. She failed to place the CAG Inspection Report in the meeting of Finance Committee and General Body meeting held on January 23, 2012, and January 24, 2012, respectively and kept these bodies under dark,” the agency has alleged.

The FIR, citing reports, alleged even if there were only limited sources of supply of sophisticated equipment for sound, stage lighting, these were not justified in the file notings for resorting to limited tender, and hence there was no justification in not resorting to open bidding.

Samson is known for her proximity to the Gandhi family of the Indian National Congress, as she was the dance tutor of Priyanka Vadra. Samson held six key positions in the 10 years of the Congress-led UPA regime. Many papers including the Indian Express alleged favouritism regarding her appointment as the chairperson of the censor board by UPA govt in 2011:

Leela Samson’s appointment as chairperson of the Censor Board has raised the question as to whether the well-known Bharatanatyam dancer will have time to devote to her new assignment. Last year, Samson was appointed chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, another prestigious position. The academy is the apex body for the performing arts. Samson is also ex-officio head of the south zone cultural centre. Apart from these commitments, she has a full-time job as director of Kalakshetra in Chennai. Samson, who was once Priyanka Gandhi’s dance teacher, has no particular connection with the world of cinema. After her appointment, Samson candidly admitted that she seldom watches films.

Samson’s tenures at Kalakshetra, Sangeet Natak Akademi and the censor board were mired with many controversies amid allegations of corruption, illegal appointments and arbitrary awarding of contracts, financial irregularities.

Samson has received the Padma Shri (1990), the Sanskriti, Nritya ChoodamaniKalaimamani (2005) given by Government of Tamil Nadu, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1999–2000) for contributions to Bharatanatyam.

Source: PTI/Wikipedia

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