The Shinde Fadnavis government on Wednesday announced to conduct an inquiry into the alleged scam in the purchase of Rapid Response Vehicles (RRVs) titled Devdoot Response Force during the coronavirus pandemic by the state relief and rehabilitation department headed by former Congress minister Vijay Wadettiwar. The deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis made the announcement after the reports of the purchase of 18 RRVs at higher prices of Rs 3 crore (inclusive of maintenance and other charges) against Rs 25 to 30 lakh each. The tender was issued by the relief and rehabilitation department for the purchase of 18 RRVs at the cost of Rs 54 crore.
The finance department had objected to the purchase citing various flaws in the tender. However, the department argued that the purchase is allowed as a special case due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The papers assessed by the Free Press Journal clearly show that Wadettiwar in a letter dated July 4, 2020, had said that it was necessary to provide the RRVs to 16 municipal corporations and also to National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force. The minister had asked the department secretary to urgently submit the proposal to tackle the emergency situation. However, the state finance department claimed that the purchase of RRVs was not urgent and there was no need to spend Rs 54 crore in the 2020-21 fiscal year in view of the austerity measures suggested considering the prevailing financial conditions arising due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, despite these objections, the 18 RRVs were purchased.
The forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar demanded that it should be probed by the special investigation team.
However, Wadettiwar denied all allegations and claimed that the RRVs were purchased at the same price as purchased in 2014 by the Congress NCP government. He argued that the prices were increased due to the rise in GST.