Mumbai : In a major decision, Maharashtra government today decided to scrap 94 tenders in 14 irrigation projects in the Konkan and Nashik divisions which are under the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s scanner, a move viewed as a setback for NCP leader and former Water Resources Minister Ajit Pawar who allegedly approved them by tweaking norms.
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.
The decision to scrap the tenders was taken during a meeting of the state cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai.
The tenders were scrapped as they are under investigation by the ACB, a CMO official said.
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.
Mr 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.
Earlier this month, the ACB had filed a charge sheet against 10 people before a district court in Thane in connection with the Balganga irrigation scam.
The ACB slapped various sections of IPC for cheating and fraud, besides the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 against the accused.
Though the charge sheet did not name Ajit Pawar, it had sought further permission to investigate the deals which directly involved him.
When contacted, Damania said “Most of the projects were unviable or unnecessary. The cost benefit ratio was beyond permissible limits. Designs were faulty and with an annual budget of only Rs. 7,000 crore for irrigation works, work need to be prioritised.
“This government should first consider all these points before showing the haste for re-tendering. They should not go the NCP way.”