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Maharashtra: ACB cites ex-deputy CM Ajit Pawar responsible for 70,000 crores irrigation scam

The ACB has asked for more time to further probe the inconsistencies and begin criminal action.

The Anti Corruption Bureau has laid incriminating charges against the ex-deputy CM Ajit Pawar in the Maharashtra irrigation scam. The ACB has highlighted gross lapses on the part of Pawar and other officials which lead to the scam, as per reports.

Estimated to be around Rs 70,000 crore, the scam is associated to the purported corruption in approval and implementation of disparate irrigation projects in Maharashtra during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rule.

Pawar was at the helm of the irrigation department on numerous occasions between 1999 and 2014 during the Congress-NCP coalition rule in Maharashtra.

The ACB has filed 24 FIRs against the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) officials, contractors and their power of attorney holders.

Sanjay Barve, Director General, ACB, filed an affidavit before the Nagpur bench of the high court on Tuesday in response to an appeal filed by an NGO, Janmanch. The NGO raised grave concerns over glaring inconsistencies in irrigation projects managed by the Vidharba and Konkan Irrigation Development Corporations.

The scam was described as a “weird case of conspiracy” in the affidavit. “Those involved in the corruption who caused a great dent to public exchequer are simply hiding behind the framework and relaying their blame on others,” it said.

The affidavit also leveled serious charges of inordinate delays, cost escalations and non-realisation of projects undertaken by the Vidarbha and Konkan irrigation development corporations under the tenure of Ajit Pawar as minister for water resources department. “The ACB has noticed that large irregularities have been perpetrated in many of these tenders with shocking similarity,” Barve said in his affidavit.

During inquisition, Pawar blamed secretary-level officers for their recommendations. He said that most of the decisions were taken at field level. “It is observed that the minister in chargee of the water resources department passes the buck on to the officers,” the affidavit said.

The ACB further stated that it had solicited the views of the water resources department’s principal secretary about Pawar’s role as the minister. In his response to the ACB, the secretary said Rule 10 of the Maharashtra Government Rules of Business and Instructions was self-explanatory and that nothing can be added.

Responsibility, according to the Rule 10 of the Maharashtra Government Rules of Business and Instructions lies squarely on the minister in-charge of the department for ‘all the business and disposal thereof appertaining to the said department’.

The ACB also said that officials of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) received graft and monetary rewards for contractors.The affidavit alleged that VIDC’s officials flouted the procedures, acted against the government’s interest, extended patronage to a select group of contractors and ensured that they got monetary benefits.

The ACB has asked for more time to further probe the inconsitencies and begin criminal action. The affidavit described the perpetrators as ‘musicians’ playing a symphony in perfect harmony with each other.

Senior NCP leader Dhananjay Munde had, earlier this month, dismissed the allegations and called it a political agenda of the BJP.

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