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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

Probe against irrigation officer; trouble for Ajit Pawar

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, March 07, 2013
First Published: 02:07 IST(7/3/2013) | Last Updated: 02:09 IST(7/3/2013)

The departmental inquiry charge sheet against former irrigation secretary Devendra Shirke, who has been blamed for inflation of costs of projects in the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation, is likely to spell trouble for the then water resources minister, Ajit Pawar, said a senior bureaucrat.

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Shirke is likely to say that the decisions were taken in association with the respective ministers, said the bureaucrat. Shirke was issued a final charge sheet early this week. He was served a draft charge sheet when he was removed from the post of secretary last year.

A senior official of the rank of principal secretary or additional chief secretary, most likely in the general administration department, will be the inquiry officer in this case, he said.

In October 2012, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had initiated a departmental probe against 45 officials of the corporation, including Shirke, six chief engineers, eight superintendent engineers and 31 executive engineers.

Seven of them have retired. Shirke, who now heads the Water and Land Management Institute in Aurangabad, is scheduled to retire on March 31.

The charge sheet will ensure that he appears before the probe officials and prevent him from enjoying retirement perks.

The Opposition and activists have pegged the irrigation scam at Rs.72,000 crore and have blamed deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar for approving high costs to build canals and dams.

Based on the document received using the Right to Information Act, activists have claimed that Pawar had approved an additional Rs.20,000 crore for 38 projects in Vidarbha within three months in 2009.

Shirke was then the executive director of the corporation.

Many such tender documents passed in 2008 and 2009 bear the signatures of Shirke and Pawar.

“Probe panels such as Wadnere and Mendhegiri committees have pointed out several in to irregularities in the Vidarbha irrigation projects.

"But Shirke has claimed that he has followed the rulebook and precedents that later became informal rules,” said a former bureaucrat, who worked closely with Shirke in the water resources department, and has now retired.

Shirke was unavailable for comment. A state-appointed special investigating team led by water expert Madhav Chitale is also conducting a separate probe in the scam.


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