Maharashtra government to form 2 special investigation teams to probe Vidarbha irrigation scam

The move comes after the Nagpur bench of the Mumbai high court slammed the government over the slow pace of investigation

mumbai Updated: Apr 05, 2018 00:12 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times

The state government has decided to set up one special investigation team (SIT) each in Amravati and Nagpur to probe the irrigation scam.

The move comes after the Nagpur bench of the Mumbai high court slammed the government over the slow pace of investigation and asked why an SIT could not be set up.

In an affidavit submitted to the court on Wednesday, the state government said two SITs would be set up headed by superintendent of police (SP) rank officers for Amravati and Nagpur. Each SIT will also include one additional SP, three deputy SPs and nine other officials.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis confirmed the decision.

Advocate Shridhar Purohit, who is representing petitioner Atul Jagtap, said: “On the face of it, these SITs seem like an eyewash. This seems to be regrouping of officials currently conducting the probe under the anti-corruption bureau (ACB). While the state’s stance in the court was that these SITs would be dedicated to the irrigation scam, this has not been mentioned in the affidavit.”

Jagtap has alleged that Raigad river project at Chandur Railway, Waghadi irrigation project in Daryapur, and Jigaon and Lower Pedhi works were awarded to a firm controlled by former legislator Sandip Bajoria on the basis of bogus documents. The contract was given at the behest of former water resources minister Ajit Pawar, claimed the petitioner.

The formation of two SITs could spell trouble for Pawar because of his role in handing out mobilisation advances and clearing cost escalations for a majority of the projects. The petitioner’s allegation is that investigating agencies are going slow, catching lower level officials and shielding the main culprits.

The ACB is investigating 40 tenders of the Gosikhurd project besides the Jigaon project, Lower Pendhi project and two minor projects in Vidarbha. In Konkan, the ACB is investigating 12 irrigation projects.

As many as 14 FIRs have been lodged in the Vidarbha scam and three in the Konkan scam. But, in none of these complaints or subsequent charge sheets, Pawar or his colleague and state NCP chief Sunil Tatkare have been indicted. After the BJP came to power in 2014, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced an open inquiry against Pawar, Tatkare and Chhagan Bhujbal (over Maharashtra Sadan case), following which an ongoing petition in the irrigation scam before the Nagpur bench against Pawar was closed.

First Published: Apr 05, 2018 00:12 IST