PIL urges probe into role of Ajit Pawar in Irrigation scam

PIL urges probe into role of Ajit Pawar in Irrigation scam

Mumbai: A petitioner in a PIL seeking a CBI probe into the multi-crore irrigation scam in Maharashtra has urged the Bombay High Court to also order an inquiry into the role of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar for alleged corruption in execution of projects.

Activist Praveen Wategaonkar has accused Pawar of conniving with officials in irregular award of contracts for projects, causing losses to the public exchequer.

Pawar, who was state's water resource minister between 1999 and 2009, had resigned last year following media reports about alleged irregularities to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore in irrigation projects.

He was later reinstated after a government White Paper gave him a clean chit.

In the affidavit, Wategaonkar has alleged that the procedures adopted in regard to Jamda and Balganga projects of Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation indicate that sanctioning of contractor claims, award of contracts and cost escalations were vitiated due to arbitrariness, nepotism, malafides, causing loss to the exchequer.

He said the then WRD Minister appeared to be complicit along with erstwhile Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC) Officials and Contractor M/s F. A. Constructions.

"This needs to be enquired into and FIR should be filed against Minister Ajit Pawar, erstwhile KIDC Officials and the contractor for entering into conspiracy and corruption under the Prevention of corruption Act", said Wategaonkar in the affidavit filed yesterday.

The case is slated to come up for hearing before a division bench on August 5.

The affidavit said that as per information available, Jamda contract was initially awarded to M/s F.A constructions for Rs 75 crores to which additional work quantities (of twice the original price), taking the total contract value to Rs 233 crore.

"This deprived other bidders the chance to bid or offer a more competitive price for the bundled/bigger work quantities, resulting in loss to exchequer and contrary to public interest," the affidavit alleged.

In case of Gadnadi project, it said, the Dam construction contract was initially awarded to M/s F.A Constructions for Rs 50 crore to which additional work quantities of Rs 219 crores (four times the original price) were later added, thereby depriving other bidders the chance to bid or offer a more competitive price for the bigger work quantities, resulting in loss to exchequer.

Wategaonkar alleged that Special Investigation Team formed under an expert Madhav Chitale was "a farce and at best a glorified departmental enquiry committee, incapable, both in terms of competence and powers to enquire into this systemic massive corruption".

The affidavit said according to erstwhile KIDC rules, there was a restriction on awarding the number of contracts. "Notwithstanding the fact that the contractor satisfying the eligibility criteria, no contractor or Joint Venture will be considered for the qualification for any work if he or any partner to JV has already been awarded three works of dams within the Jurisdiction of KIDC," it said.

The affidavit filed by the Superintending Engineer, Thane Irrigation Circle, under KIDC, has admitted to awarding of 12 works to F.A Group, 8 to M/s F.A Constructions and 4 to M/s F.A Enterprises, the affidavit further said.

Awarding of contracts in excess of the prescribed norms to M/s F.A Group entities showed Institutional favours to this group, which was contrary to public interest, Wategaonkar claimed.

The court is hearing two PILs seeking a CBI probe against ministers and bureaucrats allegedly involved in the irrigation scam.

One PIL has been filed by Wategaonkar, while the other by former journalist Ketan Tirodkar.

While Tirodkar's PIL says CBI should take cognizance of the case on its own, Wategaonkar's PIL seeks direction of the High Court to CBI to probe the matter.

Wategaonkar has alleged in the affidavit that Pawar had joined the government once again as he feared that he may have to face an independent probe if he remained out of the cabinet.

PTI

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