NAGPUR: Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has given a clean chit to former Water Resources Minister Ajit Pawar in the multi-crore Vidarbha irrigation scam.
The affidavit filed by ACB Superintendent Rashmi Nandekar before Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, has put onus on officials while ruling out Pawar’s involvement in cases of alleged irregularities in approval and commissioning of irrigation projects in the Vidarbha region.
Nagpur based NGO Janmanch had filed a petition before the high court demanding a CBI inquiry into the whole scam in 2012 after which several panels probed the scam. The panels under Wadnere, Pandhre and Madhavrao Chitale, that had probed the scam earlier, had not held Pawar responsible for the scam.
Now the new affidavit said, “As regards grant of sanction to the liability of the tender cost including that of updated cost, it is revealed during the course of enquiry/investigation that: Only note-sheets for grant of liability of the tender cost were sent to the chairman of the corporation by the executive director of the VIDC. In most of the cases, the executive director of the VIDC has accorded permission to the updated cost of the tender work, being within 5 per cent of updated tender cost, as he is empowered to accept the tender up to 5 per cent above the costs.”
“The proposals for acceptance of the liability for the entire tender cost were being submitted to the chairman with the recommendation of the executive director. In some cases, the recommendations were also given by the principal secretary of the water resources department who is ex-officio managing director of the corporation,” it added.
“But neither the executive director nor the managing director, have ever given negative remarks on note-sheets for the same. There is no evidence on record to say that the secretary of the department had briefed the Minister of Water Resources Department about not accepting the liability of the tender work,” the affidavit further stated.
It has also inferred that “no criminal action is possible against Ajit Pawar”.
The affidavit was submitted on November 27, a day before the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of the Shiv Sena -NCP-Congress was sworn-in the state on November 28.
Pawar, the NCP MLA from Baramati in Pune district, was Water Resources Minister during 1999-2009 when the Congress-NCP combine was in power in Maharashtra. He had also served as Chairman of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), which had cleared irrigation projects in which mass scale irregularities were found.
The ACB is inquiring into a total of 2,654 tenders related to 45 projects of VIDC.
On November 25, the agency had closed probe in nine cases of alleged corruption in irrigation projects, but clarified none of them was linked to Pawar.
The HC had asked ACB to submit a report on the PIL concerning award of tenders in an irrigation project in Amravati where Pawar was named as a respondent.
“Concerning this we had, in our previous affidavit, written that we have referred this matter to the government for opinion. Now, we have got opinion from the government that Ajit Pawar was not involved in it (the scam) and this we have communicated to the court a few days back,” said an ACB officer
The scam, pegged at around Rs 70,000 crore, related to alleged corruption, cost escalations and irregularities in approval and execution of various irrigation projects during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rule. The allegations on Pawar included claims that he awarded projects at inflated prices.
Last month, Pawar had rebelled and joined hands with the BJP to form a short-lived government in Maharashtra where he was deputy chief minister for just three days. He later resigned and returned to the NCP fold.