ED starts investigation into irrigation scam in MaharashtraUpdated: Oct 18, 2020, 00:22 IST
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has commenced a probe into the money-laundering allegations against various corporations of the state irrigation department in a scam that came to light in 2012.
The probe is likely to bring the role of deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar under the scanner, as he headed the water resources department during 1999 and 2009.
Interestingly, the move coincides with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government ordering an open probe into former CM Devendra Fadnavis’s pet water conservation project, Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan.
ED officials have already asked water resources department officials to provide tenders for dam projects, revised administrative approvals, and bills paid to the contractors linked to Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation, Krishna Valley irrigation project, and Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation between 1999 and 2009.
A senior ED official, who did not wish to be named, confirmed that as part of its probe, the agency has asked the office of the state water resources department to provide all documents.
When asked if any officer from the department has been summoned as they have not provided the details yet, the ED official said that the summons is not for questioning, but a reminder to explain what documents are required for the probe.
The anti-corruption bureau (ACB) has already given a clean chit to Pawar in December last year in connection to alleged irregularities related to twelve projects under Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation.
According to an affidavit filed in the high court on November 27, the NCP leader was cleared of all allegations in the Vidarbha irrigation scam by the Maharashtra ACB. The affidavit was filed just a day before the MVA government came to power in the state on November 28.
The development from ED also comes weeks after Mumbai Police’s Economic Offenses Wing (EOW) gave a clean chit to Pawar and others in the ₹25,000-crore Maharashtra State Cooperative banks scam. EOW last month filed a closure report in the case, claiming it to be a civil matter. ED has opposed EOW’s move in the court.
Pawar, who was touring the flood-affected areas of Solapur and Pune district on Saturday, declined to comment on the ED probe and said that a probe into Jalyukt Shivar was not ordered out of any spite. “A few ministers in the cabinet raised issues that if CAG itself raised questions on it (Jalyukt Shivar) then the ambitious project on which crores were spent must be probed. Therefore, the chief minister has ordered an open inquiry into it through a special investigation team (SIT). There is no feeling of spite or grudge against anybody in this,” Pawar told reporters.
The repercussion of the probe by the Central agency against Pawar was felt in the three-party (Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) state government.
Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena leader and one of the architects of the three-party alliance, refused to comment on the probe and its impact. “It won’t be correct for me to respond to it; the state government will respond to it. I know that the state government’s investigation agencies have given a clean chit,” Raut said.