Maharashtra irrigation scam: ED demands documents pertaining to project

Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has began to review the Vidharbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) scam, popularly referred as the irrigation scam, as the agency has demanded fresh set of documents from the concerned department.

Maharashtra’s anti-corruption bureau (ACB) has cleared deputy chief minister of the state Ajit Pawar of allegations in connection with an irrigation scam in the state, according to an affidavit filed in the high court late last year.

ED has demanded documents from the state's water resources department. The documents which are under scrutiny include the revised contracts awarded, the sanctions, the bills paid to the contractors. The agency is likely to summon officials who were at the helm of the affairs during the period of the alleged scam.

ED is investigating the alleged financial irregularities in the irrigation project and the money trail.

ED designated to probe money-laundering under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) has earlier filed cases and are probing few FIR’s linked to the entire scam. In all, the irrigation scam involves 44 projects spread over Vidarbha and the Konkans and has till now led to 24 FIRs and 5 chargesheets.

The allegations had been a political issue in the run-up to the 2014 state elections. To recall, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis opened the case against Pawar after he came to power.

The ACB had earlier accused Pawar-- water irrigation minister between 1999-2009--- of presiding over a regime in which “procedures were bypassed, pecuniary benefits were passed on, sub-standard was work allowed leading to drain upon public exchequer,” but in recent affidavits gave him a clean chit saying he had no role in the cost upgradation or the mobilisation of advance.

The development comes in the wake of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) last month filling a closure report in the alleged Rs 25,000 crore scam. The ED filed an intervention application challenging the closure report. Pawar and others were given clean chit in the EOW case.

The irrigation scam came out in 2012 where it was alleged that even after spending Rs 42,500 crore for a decade, the state had brought only 0.1% of the targeted land under irrigation. It was revealed that a nexus of contractors, officials and politicians had milked thousands of crores meant for irrigation projects.

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