Taking stern action into alleged irregularities in several irrigation projects in Maharashtra during previous Congress-NCP government, state Cabinet on Tuesday scrapped 94 contracts in 14 irrigation projects in the Konkan and Nashik divisions pending inquiry by the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
This includes 81 various works related to Gosi-Khurd irrigation project in Vidarbha region, which has seen a massive cost escalation in last 35 years.
Former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who headed the water resources ministry for over a decade since 1999, has been accused of wrongdoings in awarding irrigation contracts.
The move is considered a blow to Pawar, who as Water Resources Minister between 1999 and 2009 approved projects worth Rs 20,000 crore, allegedly by tweaking rules and without a clearance of Governing Council of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
The 14 irrigation projects includes the controversial Kondhana dam in Karjat taluka in Raigad district, over which former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Anjali Damania had alleged a Rs 72,000 crore irrigation scam.
Addressing reporters at Mantralaya, Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan said the total cost of the scrapped tenders is about Rs 3,295 crore.
He said the government will float fresh tenders and the projects will be completed in a time-bound manner.
Mahajan said the Cabinet also gave its nod to third revised administrative approval to the Gosi-Khurd project.
He said the government will call for fresh bids and mandate to complete works on Gosi-Khurd project before June 2019.
"The cost of Gosi Khurd irrigation project which has been tagged as a National Project has escalated to Rs 18,494 crore from its original cost of Rs 372 crore during last 35 years.
The Cabinet today gave its nod to the third revised administrative approval to Gosi-Khurd project," the minister said.
Mahajan said the Centre will share 90 per cent of the proposed project cost whereas state will share the rest, adding that the total cost escalation in Gosi-Khurd stands at Rs 3,544.95 crore now.
Referring to the decision to grant revised administrative approval to Gosi-Khurd, the minister said that approvals shall be given while ensuring that they won't affect the ongoing ACB probe.
"There were court cases filed in connection with the 14 irrigation projects. Several irregularities were found in awarding of the contracts," the minister said, adding majority of the contracts in Konkan and Nashik were awarded to one company.
After assuming power in 2014, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had ordered ACB to investigate the contracts.
On August 24, 2015, the ACB had registered the first FIR in the scam, booking 11 people in connection with alleged irregularities in awarding the contract for Balganga dam to FA Enterprises.
Ajit Pawar was also questioned by the ACB in this regard.
On August 8 this year, the investigative agency filed the charge sheet against 10 people, first in the alleged scam. Though Ajit’s name does not in the list of people allegedly involved in the irregularities during the proposed construction of Balganga Dam, the chargesheet has sought further permission to probe the deals that directly involves him.