The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has launched a probe into money laundering allegations against various corporations of the Maharashtra irrigation department in connection with alleged irregularities in 12 projects under Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation, according to people aware of the developments.
ED has sought tenders for dam projects, revised administrative approvals, and bills paid to the contractors linked to Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation, Krishna Valley irrigation project, and Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation between 1999 and 2009, from officials of the water resources department, an ED official said on condition of anonymity.
The probe is likely to bring deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar under scanner after irregularities in the department came to light in 2012. Pawar was the water resources minister between 1999 and 2009. In December last year, the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) gave the deputy CM a clean chit in the case. An affidavit to this effect was filed in the high court on 27 November, a day before the MVA government came to power in the state on 28 November.
The probe coincides with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government ordering a probe into former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s water conservation project, Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan.
The development comes weeks after the Mumbai Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) gave a clean chit to Pawar and others in the ₹25,000-crore Maharashtra State Cooperative banks irregularities case. The EOW last month filed a closure report in the case, calling it to be a civil matter. ED has opposed EOW’s move in the court.
Pawar, who was touring the flood-affected areas of Solapur and Pune district on 17 October, declined to comment on the ED probe and said that a probe into Jalyukt Shivar was not ordered out of any spite. “A few ministers in the cabinet raised issues that if CAG itself raised questions on it (Jalyukt Shivar) then the ambitious project on which crores were spent must be probed. Therefore, the chief minister has ordered an open inquiry into it through a special investigation team (SIT). There is no feeling of spite or grudge against anybody in this,” Pawar told reporters.
Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena leader and one of the architects of the three-party alliance, refused to comment on the probe. “It won’t be correct for me to respond to it; the state government will respond to it. I know that the state government’s investigation agencies have given a clean chit,” Raut said.