In a sign that the countdown for those complicit in the multi-crore irrigation scam has started, the state’s anti-corruption bureau (ACB) on Saturday filed a case against RD Shinde, superintending engineer of Thane irrigation circle.
Shinde was involved in planning, designing and managing several controversial projects, including Kondhane, Kalu and Balganga. These projects saw arbitrary cost escalations ranging from 150% to 500%.
He has been charged under Section 13 (1) and (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The move comes on the heels of the state government’s backing for a probe against former ministers Sunil Tatkare and Ajit Pawar in the irrigation scam, in response to a PIL filed in the Bombay high court.
An open inquiry initiated against Shinde tracked his total earnings from 1982, when he had joined service in the irrigation department, to 2012. It was found that he had assets worth Rs3.60 crore, which were disproportionate to his known sources of income.
The inquiry report was submitted by HV Bhat, deputy superintendent of police, Pune, in November. A copy of the report and the FIR are with HT.
The report revealed that in the past three decades, Shinde brought several land tracts across seven villages in Solapur district, his home town and in one village in Ratnagiri district.
While the inquiry has not tabulated the total land holdings, activists, who have been pursuing this investigation, put the figure at nearly 148 acres.
Bhat’s report points to Shinde’s investments in shares at Rs50 lakh, property bought in his or his family’s name at Rs50.20 lakh, while his salary is around Rs70 lakh. His total expenditure, however, has been pegged at Rs1.56 crore.
Officials said once the charge sheet is filed, investigators will join the dots between illicit wealth amassed by the engineer and the irrigation scam.
“The officials-contractors-politician nexus will be revealed. How can an engineer have means to amass 148 acres of land? In a majority of the irrigation projects in Thane and Konkan districts, tenders were fudged and costs escalated to favour of one particular contractor, and clearly there were kickbacks,” said Anjali Damania, activist who blew the lid of the irrigation scam in Konkan.