Irrigation Scam: ACB hints at involvement of Ajit Pawar

Ajit Pawar

Nagpur : The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has informed the Bombay High Court that its probe into the alleged multi-crore irrigation scam has revealed major lapses on part of the state’s former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and other government officials.

The scam, pegged at around Rs 70,000 crore, relates to alleged corruption and irregularities in approval and execution of various irrigation projects in Maharashtra during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rule.

Ajit Pawar was among the NCP ministers who were in-charge of the irrigation department at different times between 1999 and 2014 during the Congress-NCP coalition rule in Maharashtra.

ACB’s Director General Sanjay Barve filed an affidavit before the Nagpur bench of the high court on Tuesday in response to a petition filed by an NGO, Janmanch.

The NGO, in it’s petition, raised concerns over irregularities in irrigation projects undertaken by the Vidharba and Konkan Irrigation Development Corporations.

The affidavit described the scam as a “weird case of conspiracy” in the water resources department which has “defrauded the government itself”.

“The dramatis personae, who put up this performance that cost the government dearly, are simply trying to hide behind the framework of rules and pass the buck,” it said.

It said several projects of the Vidarbha and Konkan irrigation development corporations suffered delays, cost escalations and non-realisation of projected goals of irrigation during Pawar’s stewardship as minister for water resources department.

“The ACB has observed that various irregularities have been committed in several of these tenders/works with uncanny similarity,” Barve said in his affidavit.

During inquiries, Pawar claimed he took decisions based on recommendations of secretary-level officers and that most of the decisions were taken at the field level, the affidavit said.

“It is observed that the minister in-charge of the water resources department shoves the responsibility on to the officers,” it said.

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