Published On: Tue, Dec 12th, 2017

Four new FIRs lodged in Maharashtra’s Rs 72,000 cr irrigation ‘scam’

Nagpur: The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Tuesday lodged four fresh FIRs against two dozen persons, including government officials and contractors, for involvement in the alleged Rs 72,000 crore irrigation scam in the state.

The hike was more than 300 times the original projects costs

The FIRs were lodged at the Sadar Police Station by ACB, Nagpur Range, ACB Inspector PR Patil said in a statement.

The FIRs in the case, which is said to have taken place around 2009 when the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government was in power, came when the two parties were busy leading a massive anti-government procession here – the state’s second capital – this afternoon.

At the relevant time, NCP’s senior leaders, including Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare, had handled the Irrigation Department where the scams were unearthed.

The fresh FIRs pertain to investigations into a staggering hike in the cost of 38 irrigation projects in Vidarbha region of eastern Maharashtra, from Rs 6,672 crore to Rs 26,722 crore, effected by Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).

The hike was more than 300 times the original projects costs, and approval for the additional expenditure was permitted in just three months, in the third quarter of 2009.

The VIDC had justified the cost escalation on grounds of increase in the prices of construction materials, labour, engineering and land acquisition.

Among other things, the investigators found that the approval of hiked costs for some of the projects came on August 15 — a national holiday — besides the VIDC issuing bids and granting approval for all the 38 projects on a single day.

Despite the haste with which the project costs were hiked, cleared and approved totalling to an estimated Rs 72,000 crore, barely a fraction of the targeted water works has been completed till date.

A former state bureaucrat, Vijay Pandhare, had blown the whistle off the huge scam which hit the headlines in 2012. Later, he had joined the Aam Aadmi Party.

Maharashtra opposition parties then — the BJP and Shiv Sena — plus prominent RTI and social activists had alleged that rules and regulations were blatantly flouted by Ajit Pawar and others to dole out highly inflated projects to favoured contractors in return for kickbacks.

In 2015, Ajit Pawar had been questioned by the ACB thrice on the issue, which continues to embarrass the NCP which celebrated the 77th birthday of its founder-President Sharad Pawar on Tuesday.

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