The probe into the multi-crore irrigation scam picked up pace on Saturday, when the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) filed its third First Information Report (FIR) on the Konkan projects – this one on the Kondhane dam. It also filed a first charge sheet in a Vidarbha project - the Ghodzari canal tender of the Gosikhurd dam.
In the complaint regarding the Kondhane dam in Raigad, the role of former water resources minister Sunil Tatkare is now under the direct ambit of investigation. Tatkare was the minister when the project was cleared in 2011. This dam saw a massive cost escalation – from Rs56 crore to Rs328 crore – after its height was increased by 32 meters. This was within one month of the tender being given to FA Enterprises. While the FIR does not name Tatkare, a senior home department official told HT the minister’s role in granting approval and the cost hike of the project will be investigated.
The implementing agency, the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC) was led by Tatkare then and had granted the cost hike of Rs272 crore without getting a revised administrative approval or calling for new tenders. The FIR in the Kondhane case names six KIDC officials and contractor Nisar Khatri, who was a partner at FA Enterprises.
In the Ghodzari canal project, the charge sheet is against five officials of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) and Nisar Khatri again, who had bagged this project.
One of those charged in the Ghodzari project is former superintendent engineer, SL Kolhapurkar, who was until recently, serving as officer on special duty to Union minister Nitin Gadkari.
In both cases, the contractor and officials face charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption for having rigged the tender process to favour the contractor, committing forgery and violating existing norms to clear the project.