| Pune |
October 15, 2020 11:32:02 pm
EVEN AS the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government launched a probe into the Jalyukt-Shivar scheme, an alleged multicrore fraud case in the water conservation project at Parli constituency in Beed district has been dragging for three years. Despite the police booking 24 government officials, 138 contractors and labour societies, they have only made four arrests so far.
On Wednesday, the state cabinet, chaired by the chief minister, gave the go-ahead to the probe into the pet project of former CM Devendra Fadnavis, who is now the Leader of the Opposition. A statement from the CMO said the decision was taken after considering critical issues raised by the CAG in its report on the quality of work, cost and its impact.
In the Parli case, the alleged fraud came to light in 2017, and after an internal probe, the agri assistants, agriculture supervisor, circle agriculture officers, taluka agriculture officers and sub-divisional officials were suspended by the agriculture department. The suspended officials were to reportedly inspect water conservation works.
Officials said the alleged irregularities took place at 10 or 12 villages of Parli taluka in Beed district, in which bogus bills were submitted to claim the full amount for incomplete works. They added that a probe by a vigilance squad appointed by the state agriculture commissioner showed that out of 883 works sanctioned, worth Rs 34 crore for three years (2015-17), there were irregularities in 307. The irregularities relate to claiming full amount for 50 per cent or 30 per cent work done, officials said.
Local Congress leader Vasant Munde, who first lodged a complaint with the state government and is now fighting the case before the Lokayukta, said on Thursday that in the first phase, the fraud related to 883 works till 2017. “Over 500 more works were undertaken in 2018. We had demanded an inspection of all 1,169 works. The inspection in the second phase of the works is underway,” he said.
Munde alleged that in the first phase a fraud of Rs 4.41 crore was detected, and that 10 per cent works had been inspected in the second phase and officials had found fraud of Rs 41 lakh.
“I have been repeatedly saying it is a multicrore fraud. The amount of money involved is much more…,” he further alleged.
Joint Director of Agriculture D L Jadhav told The Indian Express that a departmental probe had been initiated against 24 government officials who have also been booked in the FIR. “So far, four have surrendered. Some are absconding, while some have secured anticipatory bail,” he said.
Jadhav also said the recovery process from labour societies and contractors, who undertook the works, was on. He added that last week the agriculture department wrote to Beed Superintendent of Police Raja Ramaswamy to arrest officials who were absconding and the contractors involved. “Police have assured us action against the accused. We are waiting…,” Jadhav said.
Ramaswamy said, “I have not seen the letter so far… but we will certainly initiate action against the accused.”
He said he had recently taken charge and would have to study the matter in detail.
Munde said he was fighting the case before the Lokayutka. “The Lokayukta has ordered that FIRs should be filed against 29 labour societies and contractors,” he said.
Munde also said initially it was thought that only 10 to 12 villages were impacted by the fraud, but now it was being suspected that 70 villages had suffered.
“Those involved had approached the High Court and even Supreme Court, which rejected anticipatory bails,” said Munde, adding that he had held fasts and staged protests to get the FIRs lodged.
“The case is dragging as big political leaders from different parties are involved. Attempts are being made to protect them,” he alleged.
The Jalyukt Shivar scheme, launched by the Fadnavis government after it came to power in 2014, intended to harvest rainwater and enhance groundwater levels in drought-hit areas. The scheme was aimed at making 5,000 villages free of water scarcity, on an annual basis.
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