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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, October 09, 2012
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has decided to appoint a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer to ensure that the departmental inquiry against officials named in the irrigation scam is impartial.

On Friday, Chavan initiated a probe against 45 engineers of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC). These include top officials such as chief engineers, superintendent engineers, executive engineers and former VIDC chief executive director Devendra Shirke, who now is the state irrigation secretary.

A source close to Chavan told HT on Tuesday that the CM has asked chief secretary JK Banthia to head the probe, but the latter is likely to ask one of the additional chief secretaries to do the job. The source did not wish to be identified given the serious nature of the issue. On his part, Chavan neither confirmed nor denied the development.

The VIDC engineers will face a probe for their role in escalating costs of various projects in the Vidarbha region. The escalations purportedly took place through several acts of commission and omission, including ignoring government norms while clearing cost hikes, not supervising work, and not following tender conditions. Some of these engineers have already retired from the government service. 

The VIDC Act says that the executive director will act on the advice of the managing director, the water resources secretary. But this was not followed with Shirke clearing revised estimates in most projects on his own. An estimated advance of Rs. 479 crore was paid to contractors for projects in Vidarbha between 2007 and 2009, cleared by the then water resources minister Ajit Pawar and signed by Shirke.