Irrigation scam: ACB units file 14 fresh cases against VIDC officialsUpdated: Feb 13, 2020 00:41 IST
The Nagpur and Amravati units of the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) filed 14 fresh cases on Wednesday against several former senior officials of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC). Superintendent of police (SP), ACB, Nagpur range, Rashmi Nandeshwar said these officers were involved in awarding contracts illegally to contractors in various projects. The cases were filed a day before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court (HC) would begin hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by a local non-government organisation (NGO) that has accused the ACB of mishandling the probe into VIDC and demanded the case be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
According to the ACB’s investigation into the alleged multi-crore irrigation scam in 14 projects undertaken by the VIDC from 2007 onwards, senior government officers acted in connivance with contractors who misrepresented facts and submitted forged certificates to get contracts illegally. In many cases, the cost of the works were also allegedly enhanced.
Cases were filed on Wednesday after the Nagpur and Amravati ranges of ACB found irregularities in the workings of the Mokhaburdi Irrigation Project, Asolmedha canal, Nerla project, Mokhaburdi barrage, left and right canals at Goshikhurd, and Ghodazhari barrage. Among those charged are former executive director of the Goshikhurd irrigation project, Devendra Shirke; former chief engineer for the same project, Sopan Suryavanshi; former divisional accounts officer, CT Jivkate; and former executive engineer, Madhukar Apte. The seven irrigation projects for which ACB’s Amravati range registered cases are Uma Barrage, Purna Barrage and Dagad Parva in Akola, Bhagdi in Amravati, Hirdav and Pentakali in Buldhana and Mahagav in Yavatmal. The process to register case in one more project is underway, said ACB sources.
The ACB said the selected contractors forged documents, mainly company registration certificates and work-done certificates, to bag projects. The accused government servants are charged with colluding with the contractors by turning a blind eye to irregularities in applications. The accused have been booked under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including sections 420 (cheating), 465 (punishment for forgery), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record); and relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
In December 2019, the ACB had given a clean chit to deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who had held the water resources portfolio in the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime between 1999 and 2009. He was also chairman of VIDC.
Meanwhile, the Nagpur bench of the HC will begin hearing NGO Jan Manch’s PIL against the ACB today. In its petition, Jan Manch has alleged the ACB’s probe into the alleged, multi-crore irrigation scam has been disappointing and asked the court to direct the CBI to take over the investigation.
(with inputs from Pradip Kumar Maitra)