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
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.
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