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Rs 8 crore fraud in minister’s constituency: 138 contractors, 24 officials named in FIR, no arrests yet

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Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune | Updated: November 8, 2018 2:00:51 am

Parli taluka is represented by Maharashtra Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde, who has called for strict punishment to those found guilty.

As many as 138 contractors and 24 government officials have been booked by Beed police in connection with alleged irregularities in Jalyukt Shivar Yojana, the ambitious water conservation project of the Devendra Fadnavis government, it is learnt.

An FIR has been lodged against all of them in the last eight months, reveals an RTI query filed by The Indian Express, but a top police officer confirmed that no arrests have been made so far.

“The FIR has been lodged against 138 contractors and 24 agriculture [department] officials from Parli. The first FIR was lodged in March by my predecessor and then I filed the second FIR in June,” Ashok Sonawane, Parli taluka agriculture officer, stated in the RTI reply.

Parli taluka is represented by Maharashtra Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde, who has called for strict punishment to those found guilty.

Beed Superintendent of Police G Sreedhar confirmed that FIR has been lodged against all the contractors and officials, but no arrests had been made. “The FIR was lodged after we received a complaint from the Agriculture department. We conducted preliminary investigation and registered the FIR,” Shridhar said.

Asked why no one had been arrested, Sridhar said, “We are currently collecting documentary evidence in connection with the irregularities. The investigation is still at a primary stage. I can’t say when we will be able to take action,” he said.

The police said those named in FIR have got no relief from the High Court and the SC, which rejected their anticipatory bail pleas.

Among Agriculture officials suspended are agri-assistants, agriculture supervisor, circle agriculture officers, taluka agriculture officers and sub-divisional officers. “They were supposed to inspect the water conservation works with varying degree. Some were supposed to inspect 30 per cent of the works, while others 20 or 40 or 50 per cent of the works,” Sridhar said.

The alleged irregularities have taken place in 10 or 12 villages of Parli taluka in Beed district. It involved submission of bogus bills to claim the full amount for incomplete works, officials said. The contractors have been paid Rs 8 crore for the incomplete works, they added.

A probe by a vigilance squad appointed by the State Agriculture Commissioner revealed that of 883 works sanctioned, amounting to Rs 34 crore for three years (2015-17), irregularities were found in 307 projects. The irregularities relate to claiming the full amount for 50 per cent or 30 per cent of the work done, Sonawane stated. The Maharashtra government has denied any wrongdoing in the scheme.

Local Congress leader Vasant Munde, who had also lodged a complaint with the state government, said he has been demanding arrests of the accused, but the police have failed to take action. Munde alleged that the fraud is much bigger than what is being claimed. He said, “Although they have found a Rs 8-crore fruad, we suspect it could be more than Rs 18 crore. Only 307 works have been inspected so far. We demand inspection of all 883 works – that will reveal the magnitude of the fraud.”

The Jalyukt Shivar Yojana, launched by the Fadnavis government after it came to power in 2014, intends to harvest rainwater and enhance groundwater levels in drought-affected areas. The scheme was aimed at making 5,000 villages free of water scarcity, annually.

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