Even though chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said the ongoing probe into the irrigation scam will look into former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s link to Pune based Raj Group, the track record of the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) probe in the past seven months looks anything but promising.
Fadnavis had given a go-ahead to the ACB probe against former water resources ministers Pawar and Sunil Tatkare in December, after being nudged by a PIL filed in the Bombay high court. The probe looks into the corruption allegations and contractor-official-politician nexus in irrigation projects in Vidarbha and Konkan. But, so far no FIR has been filed.
Activists are likely to up their ante if this status quo remains. In political circles, there is also speculation that with the Sena-BJP sharing an uneasy relation, the Fadnavis-led government may be forced to go soft on the NCP. “For a long time, the Vidarbha papers were not even considered by the ACB. We have submitted a heavy dossier to the investigation agency that leaves no room for doubt. We will wait for a month. Then we have no option but to approach the court,’’ said Anil Kilor of Jan Manch, which filed the PIL.
The PIL highlighted cost escalations amounting to Rs20,000 crore in irrigation projects in Vidarbha in 2009, before the Assembly polls. The ND Vadnere panel report, which also examined the cost hikes to irrigation projects in Vidarbha (with one report focusing on Gosikhurd and the second report on other projects) already has a ready reckoner for investigative agencies, if they want to take action, said another activist.
In the case of Konkan, activist Anjali Damania filed a PIL and submitted detailed RTI documents on nearly 15 irrigation projects that point out violations and favouritism in handing over projects at the cost of public money. “There is enough evidence to take action against the accused in the case of the Konkan projects. We don’t know why nothing has moved so far. Though the ACB has submitted two closed reports of its findings to the court,’’ said Damania. She is also likely to move the high court with the latest findings that link Pawar to a Pune-based firm and its directors, unless the investigation agency makes a move first.
In Aurangabad, a PIL by a water expert and retired associate professor of Water and Land Management Institute (Walmi), to operationalise good water governance as envisaged in the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act (MWRRA), could open up another can of worms. The high court has asked for the details of nearly 189 irrigation projects cleared from 2007-2013 in violation of the MWRRA Act.