Mumbai: Citing gross irregularities, the Maharashtra government led by Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday scrapped nearly 94 irrigation project tenders worth Rs 6,000 crore, which are currently under the Anti-Corruption Bureau scanner in connection with the state's multi-crore irrigation scam.
The move is a big setback for former NCP leader and former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who is alleged to have cleared projects worth Rs 20,000 crore in 2009 flouting rules.
Ajit Pawar, who was Water Resources Minister between 1999 and 2009, had allegedly approved those projects by tweaking rules and without clearance of Governing Council of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
The Maharashtra Chief Minister's office confirmed the move through a tweet this afternoon.
Maharashtra Cabinet decides to scrap around 94 irrigation project tenders in which anti-corruption bureau (ACB) has initiated probe.
— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) August 30, 2016
This is not the first time that the Maharashtra government has scrapped the irrigation project tenders floated by the erstwhile Congress-NCP government.
The BJP-Shiv Sena government had earlier scrapped nearly 128 irrigation projects with collective budget of Rs 624.28 crore, sanctioned by the previous Congress-NCP government in the last four months of its tenure.
Besides, the Fadnavis government had also directed the anti-corruption bureau to conduct an enquiry into 14 other projects, 12 of them in Konkan region.
Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan had earlier alleged that bureaucrats were under pressure during the previous NCP-Congress regime to give green signal to projects.
The Congress-NCP government had appointed Madhav Chitale committee in December 2012 to scrutinise the escalation of costs of irrigation projects, after Shiv Sena and BJP, the then Opposition, alleged a scam of Rs 70,000 crore.
The committee submitted its report in March last year.
The then water resources minister Sunil Tatkare (NCP), while tabling the report in the Assembly, had said the cost escalations had been brought to the notice of the governing council of irrigation development corporations by the chief financial officer and executive director, and still approvals were given.
The committee held members and chairman (the post held by Minister of Water Resources) of corporations responsible for this, he had said. Tatkare, who was the Water Resources Minister till June last year, had said that delay in completion of irrigation projects was due to the delay in acquisition of land and rehabilitation of project affected-persons.
Meanwhile, the NCP alleges a foul play and political vendetta behind the state government's move to scrap various projects.
Reacting to the development, NCP leader Nawab Malik questioned the timing of this move and claimed that Fadnavis government was only interested in targeting Pawar.