The Maharashtra state water resources department on Wednesday suspended four senior irrigation officials in connection with irregularities in the construction of Kondane dam in Raigad district.
Superintending engineer RD Shinde, executive engineer RC Rithe, deputy divisional engineer GK Joshi and branch engineer VR Kasat were suspended under the provisions of Maharashtra Civil Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1979, as departmental inquiry has been initiated against them.
The action comes close on the heels of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis allowing the ACB to probe former ministers Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare in connection with the multi-crore scam.
Both Pawar and Tatkare were accused of giving approval to illegal cost escalation in irrigation projects. HT reported earlier this week that the ACB had filed a corruption case against Shinde.
The state government has already started departmental inquiry against seven irrigation officials and DP Shirke, former executive director of Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation, in the alleged irregularities in the Kondane dam project.
“Prime facie there are several irregularities in the project. Seven officials were allegedly involved. Three of them are retired and four have been suspended,” said water resources minister Girish Mahajan.
The inquiry is being conducted by secretary and special inquiry officer 2 of the general administration department of the government.
Shirke and the other officials are accused of giving a revised administrative approval to the project without following the rules and regulations.
The cost of the dam was increased from Rs 80.35 crore in May 2011 to Rs 327.62 crore in three months. Construction work started without getting the required permissions.
The Chitale committee, which probed the irrigation scam, had, in its report, said Kondane and four other projects were suspicious in nature and needed a separate probe.
The matter is coming up for hearing in the Bombay high court on Thursday after activist Anjali Damania, who unearthed the irregularities in Kondane, filed a petition in court.
According to the charge sheet framed for the departmental inquiry, tenders were floated and work started even though the May 2011 order was conditional.
The height of the dam was increased from 39m to 71m without getting the technical specifications approved. The work was granted to the same contractor without calling for new tenders and without obtaining permission of the competent financial authority.
No cl earances f rom t he Union environment and forest authorities were taken. Further. The work was started without approval for proposals for land acquisition and rehabilitation of affected families.
Reacting to the development, Damania said, “We welcome the action, but with caution. We are not satisfied with just a departmental inquiry, and want a probe by a special investigation team under the guidance of the court.”
Tatkare, however, said the suspension of the officers was logical part of the inquiry initiated by the Congress-NCP government. “The inquiry was initiated in May when I was water resources minister,” he said.