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Maha irrigation scam: Chavan confirms ordering probe, invites Sena praise

Sunday October 07, 2012 10:46:41 PM, Agencies

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Mumbai/Thane: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan Sunday confirmed that he has ordered a probe against 45 officials of the Vidharbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) for their involvement in the alleged scam.

Speaking at a function here, Chavan, however, denied that ordering the probe took over two years. He said the process took time as the government had to conduct its own inquiry before formally ordering a probe.

A one-man committee, comprising retired bureaucrat Nandkumar Vadnere, was set up in March 2010 that probed the excessive charges in some contracts. Vadnere also inquired into reports of cost escalation and the official-contractor-politician nexus in approving irrigation projects.

Many engineers, including VIDC's former chief executive director D.P. Shirke, will now face a probe on several counts, including not supervising works on site and not following tender conditions.

Chavan met union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and his former deputy, Ajit Pawar, in the last two days. Asked about the meeting, Chavan said they discussed "issues relating to the state and the centre".

Last month, Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar quit as the deputy chief minister after his name cropped up for alleged irregularities in the irrigation department, which he headed between 1999 and 2009.

'Sena appreciates'

Congress's arch rival Shiv Sena Sunday appreciated Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for ordering a probe into the irrigation scam in Maharashtra, estimated to run into over Rs.20,000 crore, over which NCP leader Ajit Pawar was forced to quit as deputy chief minister.

Appreciating Chavan for "showing courage", Shiv Sena's executive president Uddhav Thackeray said it is not an easy task to order such a massive probe while he is under tremendous pressure from alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

"Chavan has been under tremendous pressure from NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew (former deputy chief minister) Ajit Pawar. They met him separately in the last two days to discuss the issue," Thackeray told media persons.

"However, the inquiry (should) be in-depth and should nail those guilty even if they are ministers. The probe should be finished in a specific time frame," he added.

Bringing up the issue of what he called the "Karnataka-occupied Maharashtra", Thackeray requested President Pranab Mukherjee not to attend the inauguration of the Vidhan Bhavan building in Belgaum (Karnataka) Thursday.

"The president should respect the sentiments of Marathi speaking people of Belgaum, Karwar and other Marathi-dominated areas before deciding to attend the inauguration," he said.

Thackeray also said that Chavan should take up the issue and check if a formal inauguration of a disputed area amounts to contempt of court as the matter is sub-judice.

Thackeray reiterated that the disputed areas should be declared as union territory.






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