Breather to Ajit Pawar as ACB closes irrigation cases

Pawar, who had been the water resources minister, had come under scrutiny because of the scam and even had to resign briefly, when he was part of the Congress-NCP Democratic Front government.

 In what comes as a partial relief and a sort of breather to rebel NCP leader and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, nine cases related to the whooping  Rs 72,000 crore irrigation scam has been closed.

Though none of the cases shut are linked to Pawar, it comes as a morale booster for the rebel nephew of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who had switched sides to become deputy to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis's BJP-led government.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of the Maharashtra police is investigating the scandal.

Pawar,  who had been the water resources minister, had come under scrutiny because of the scam and even had to resign briefly when he was part of the Congress-NCP Democratic Front government.

The allegation was that Rs 72,000 crore was spent in a decade, ending in 2010, with an addition of a mere 0.1 per cent of irrigation potential.

The majority of the cases were related to the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation,  of which Ajit Pawar has been chairman,  during his tenure as water resources minister.

In fact,  BJP's Devendra Fadnavis, who was then in opposition benches,  was one of the whistleblowers in the scam forcing the then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to order a probe.
When Fadnavis took over as the chief minister in 2014,  he ordered the ACB probe.

However,  ACB director general Parambir Singh clarified that the cases were not linked to Pawar.

"We are investigating around 3,000 tenders in irrigation related complaints. These are routine inquiries which are closed and all ongoing investigations are continuing as they were earlier," Singh was quoted saying by a news agency.

According to a note send by the office of the  ACB to the Superintendent of the Amravati wing of the ACB dated November 25, ACB's additional DGP Bipin Singh has asked to close open enquires into nine complaints pertaining to irrigation projects in Washim, Yavatmal, Amravati and Buldhana region for want of evidence.

ACB officials said that the cases that were closed today were conditional, cases could reopen if more information comes to light or courts order further inquiry. 

In a press statement, ACB said that it was inquiring into 2,654 tenders of VIDC projects as per the two PILs filed in Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court.

"Do far open enquiry has been completed in 212 tenders. Out of these FIRs were registered in 24 cases and charge sheet has been filed in five cases. Open enquiry into 45 tenders have been closed as no offence was disclosed during the enquiry. Departmental inquiries against concerned officials have been recommended in 28 cases of administrative lapses," ACB additional superintendent of police Ajay Aphale said.

He said that the order of closure of nine cases is from the 45 enquiries that have been closed. "No criminal offence was made out in these nine cases," he said,  adding that none of these cases are in respect of Pawar. "All 24 FIRs are under investigation and are not closed," he added.

The next date of PIL hearing is on 28 November.

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