Chavan okays deeper probe into Maharashtra 'irrigation scam'

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan today ordered a departmental probe against 45 officials of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), including department secretary Devendra Shirke, in relation to the irrigation scam that has led to the resignation of Ajit Pawar, the state's erstwhile deputy chief minister and nephew of union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

Shirke and the other irrigation department officials were indicted in the N D Vadnere committee report of 2010 over escalated costs and incomplete work, but no action had been taken against them for the last two years.

The chief minister confirmed that further action has been approved. "A committee headed by former chief engineer S K Mendhgiri had recommended a probe against 45 officials of the irrigation department. I have approved the proposal. I am sure the probe will be completed soon," Chavan reportedly said.

Several engineers, including VIDC's former chief executive director D P Shirke, will now have to answer charges on various counts, including having turned a blind eye to rules while clearing costs, not supervising work on site, and ignoring tender conditions.

The official VIDC Act says the executive director will act on the advice of the managing director - the water resources secretary - but Shirke cleared revised estimates in most projects by himself, the Vadnere report shows.

In 2008, the then water resources secretary V B Gaikwad wrote to senior authorities in the government that he was bypassed during the revision of tenders, which he had said were irregular.