Maharashtra ACB files chargesheet to probe financial irregularities in Kodhane Dam project

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Maharashtra ACB files chargesheet to probe financial irregularities in Kodhane Dam project

The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Monday filed a chargesheet to probe financial irregularities in the Kondhane Dam project in Raigad district.

The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Monday filed a chargesheet in case of financial irregularities in the Kondhane Dam project in Raigad district.

The chargesheet mentions the names of officials with the water resources department as accused. However, it has excluded the name of the then Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare, who is under the ACB scanner for allegedly being involved in financial irregularities.

The chargesheet names Nisar Fateh Khatri, owner of F.A. Constructions, the firm that was awarded the tender for constructing the dam. Along with him, the then executive director of the firm Devendra Shirke, the then Chief Engineer with the department B.P. Patil, P.B. Sonawane, the then Superintendent Engineer R.D. Shinde, the then Executive Engineer A.P. Kalukhe and Rajesh Rithe also have been named as accused in the 3,000-page chargesheet.

Both contractors and government officials face charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption for having rigged the tender process to favour the contractor, committing forgery and violating the existing norms to clear the project.

An FIR in this case was filed in September last year. Social activist Anjali Damania had demanded an inquiry into the case via a PIL in the Bombay High Court on April 10, 2012.

The chargesheet does not name Tatkare but mentions that an open probe against the state NCP president is going on. "How long will the probe last? Till BJP remains cozy with the NCP?", asked Damania.

Tatkare was heading the Water Resources Department when the project was cleared in 2011. It saw a massive cost escalation from Rs 56 crore to Rs 328 crore after its height was increased by 32 metres. The change was effected within a month of the tender awarded to F.A. Constructions. The implementation agency Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation, led by Tatkare, had granted a cost hike of Rs 272 crore without getting the revised administrative approval or calling for new tenders.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered the ACB to investigate Tatkare's role in getting the approval and the cost hike.

Tatkare has claimed that the cost hike was approved according to stipulated rules and in accordance with the powers within his ambit.

The BJP had made the scams in various irrigation projects a big issue before the October 2014 Assembly election. Fadnavis, then BJP state president, had alleged that there was a scam of Rs 70,000 crore in the state's irrigation projects. The NCP had countered the allegation, saying that when the provision for irrigation projects was Rs 46,000 crore, how come the scam was to the tune of Rs 70,000 crore.

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