NCP smells Rs 40,000 cr scam in 'revised' costs of irrigation projects

Hinting at a brewing scam, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Thursday asked Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to "explain" the cost revision of Rs 40,000 crore for 307 irrigation projects in the state during the past three years.

NCP state spokesperson Nawab Malik has alleged that the Revised Administrative Approval (RAA) was ostensibly to benefit select contractors close to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine.

Malik's allegation comes a fortnight after the state Anti-Corruption Bureau lodged four new first information reports (FIRs) against officials and contractors (December 12) in the alleged Rs 72,000 crore irrigation scam perpetrated during the erstwhile Congress-NCP regime, in which the needle of suspicion points at various NCP bigwigs.

"The BJP built up an atmosphere of a so-called 'irrigation scam' during the 2014 elections, and said the methodology of misappropriation was through the RAA. They even said the RAA was corruption," Malik pointed out.

He said the present BJP government itself allowed RAAs worth Rs 40,000 crore for 307 irrigation projects in the past three years.

"We are not saying this is corruption. But how could the costs escalate so much in such a short time? The government, especially CM Fadnavis need to explain this," Malik demanded.

He accused the ruling party of changing the names of the former Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme to (now) 'Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY)' and hiking the cost of the Gosikhurd Project from Rs 20,000 crore to Rs 32,000 crore.

"The state asked the Centre to bear Rs 12,000 crore as grant to the state, but the Centre rejected it on grounds of cost-escalation. The state said that it had financed the project through NABARD, so the government must clarify whether this is a 'scam' or not," Malik added.

Dropping hints without revealing names, he said the project cost was hiked mainly to benefit some contractors, some of whom are in the "Maharashtra Legislative Council and a few in Parliament".

Rejecting the BJP's earlier allegations, Malik said in past 52 years before BJP came to power (in 2014), Rs 42,000 crore were spent on irrigation projects in the state, but the BJP created an impression that corruption of Rs 70,000 crore took place through RAA.

"In the same manner, for the cost escalations of Rs 40,000 crore permitted by the BJP government through RAA, the BJP can also be blamed of corruption. The CM must give an explanation on this issue," Malik said.

Training guns on the upcoming Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway, he said the government has given a clean-chit to bureaucrat Radheshyam Mopalwar, who was accused of graft and was reinstated after 145 days 'compulsory leave' on December 26.

"This expressway is also one mega-scam in which some bureaucrats and BJP leaders are involved. In three years, at least 18 ministers and officials were accused of graft, but all got 'clean chits' from the CM. We fear injustice to farmers since the CM is shielding the corrupt," Malik said.

-IANS