The state government wants to turn up the heat on errant civic officials, contractors, private consultants and even politicians who could be associated with the multi-crore road scam in the city.
As part of the current probe into irregularities in the way the city’s roads are built, the government is planning to impose the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), which allows for life imprisonment, and even the death sentence in some cases, to those convicted under it.
Responding to queries about how the government plans to act on the issue, Ranjit Patil, the minister of state for urban development, said the government was studying whether the scam could be called an ‘organised crime’.
“We are seeking legal opinion on imposing acts such as the MCOCA and the Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act,” Patil said.
If this is done, not only officials and contractors, but also senior corporators (elected representatives to the civic body) mostly from the Shiv Sena, could find themselves in trouble.
The Shiv Sena rules the standing committee that had approved the allotment of these projects.
Senior NCP legislator Ajit Pawar, alleging the involvement of the standing committee, said the government must get the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to probe the role of those heading it.
Responding to this, Patil said, “We will look at the involvement of all those who have been signatories in the process of allotting contracts.”
The government’s move comes after an internal inquiry into the reconstruction of 34 roads worth Rs352 crore. Of this, work worth Rs 27.17 crore was executed, but over half, or worth Rs14 crore, was found to be shoddy.
The police are investigating and have already arrested 25 people, including engineers, contractors and private consultants.
Patil also said the state government had initiated action against the six contractors who were found to be cutting corners.
“We have already initiated the process of revoking their registrations. Once this is done and they get black-listed, they will not be able to bag any more contracts anywhere else,” he said.
Earlier in the discussion, Bandra (West) BJP legislator Ashish Shelar demanded a waiver on the street tax paid by citizens, as part of their property tax bills.
“Each year, the city pays nearly Rs700 crore as street tax. The state government should waive 50% of the street tax till we can give them good roads,” he said.
Patil said as this required an amendment of norms, the state would seek legal advice on such a waiver. He, however, added the state could only recommend such a waiver to the civic body, who had the power to take the final call.
What it means
If this is done, not only officials and contractors, but senior corporators, mostly from the Shiv Sena, could find themselves in trouble.
The Sena rules the standing committee that approved allotment of road projects.