Maharashtra gives up move to replace KIDC official aiding irrigation scam probe
The Maharashtra water resources department's move to take away additional charge of the crucial Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC) from a senior official, seen as a whistle blower in the irrigation scam, has been put on hold.
Following a report in HT, which had questioned this order and its timing - a day after the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) made its first arrests in the scam - water resources minister Girish Mahajan has now intervened and put a stay on this order.
The additional charge of KIDC has been restored to TN Munde, joint secretary and chief engineer in the water resources department.
"I have spoken with the department secretary and we have put this order on hold. Munde will continue to hold the additional charge of KIDC till we take a decision on appointing a full time Chief Engineer for the post,'' Mahajan told HT.
Mahajan asked Munde to take charge back on Monday.
The minister admitted that Munde had a good track record and had been coordinating well with the ACB in the ongoing probe. He added, "There might have been some misunderstanding on the issue leading to such an order."
HT had reported that an order on August 26 had removed additional charge from Munde and handed it over to a junior superintendent engineer in the KIDC. Munde had been appointed in May after the KIDC chief engineer, BC Kunjir, went on long leave. It was believed that as an ‘outsider’, Munde would have no conflict of interest in the probe and would help investigators.
Munde has been credited with cleaning up the mess in the KIDC over the past four months, and coordinating with ACB officials in the scam investigations. This includes handing over and explaining tender documents, which are often technical and difficult to decipher.
In 2008, he had flagged the issue of contractors being paid way more than the fixed rates for construction material such as cement and iron and issued a government order against giving such hikes. The order was later overruled by then water resources minister Ajit Pawar.
Munde’s replacement had given rise to speculation that there pressure on the government to go slow on the probe.
The ACB has filed a First Information Report (FIR) in the Balganga dam scam against five members of the Khatri family that owns the firm FA Enterprises and six officials of KIDC. It is also investigating another 11 irrigation projects in Konkan and action is expected in two other projects, Kalu and Kondhane, both which have been bagged by the FA group.