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ACB chief meets irrigation min in presence of Sharad Pawar

ACB chief meets irrigation min in presence of Sharad Pawar

The state anti-corruption bureau’s (ACB) director general (DG), Parambir Singh, on Saturday met water resources minister Jayant Patil in the presence of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.

ACB is probing the irrigation scam in which senior NCP leader and deputy chief minister (CM) Ajit Pawar, who was the water resources minister between 1999 and 2009, has been facing allegations. The bureau has given a clean to Ajit Pawar in connection with the scam, by filing an affidavit before the high court (HC) in November 2019. The affidavit pertains to several allegations against the deputy CM, including a ₹17,000-crore escalation in costs in 32 irrigation projects in Vidarbha within three months. The Nagpur bench of the HC will hear the matter on January 15.

Patil had called a meeting of senior officials of his department at YB Chavan Centre, on Saturday, in presence of the party chief. He had also called the ACB DG for the meeting, and the latter stayed there for half an hour, said an official. IS Chahal, principal secretary, water resources department, confirmed the meeting. “[I] made only a presentation,” Chahal said, refusing to divulge details.

Singh recently retracted his statement about his predecessor, Sanjay Barve, over giving a clean chit to Ajit Pawar in the alleged irrigation scam. Singh had said that Barve overlooked an important communication, dated March 26, 2018, from the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) which was received by the ACB’s Amravati office, along with a report that was significant in granting a clean chit to the deputy CM. The communication had cited section 25 of the VIDC Act to justify the bypassing of the state government to submit files directly to the then water resources department minister. In a personal affidavit filed before the HC, Singh had also offered an apology for making a sweeping statement about his predecessor.

Barve, in an affidavit filed on November 26, 2018, had rejected the justification offered by VIDC. He had stated that there had been a “recurring pattern” in the irrigation scam, citing the tender costs were inflated and contracts were awarded to favoured contractors. The scam, involving 44 projects spread over Vidarbha and the Konkan, has led to 23 FIRs and five charge sheets.

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