Mumbai: In a crackdown on suspected corruption in the irrigation sector under the previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) regime, the Maharashtra government has cancelled 94 tenders for irrigation projects that are being probed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena government, at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, decided to scrap the tenders for irrigation works worth a combined Rs.3,295 crore. All the tenders were related to 14 irrigation projects which are being investigated by the ACB, Maharashtra water resources minister Girish Mahajan said.
The BJP-Shiv Sena government had launched an ACB inquiry into these projects in 2014 after coming to power. Mahajan said the government would issue fresh tenders for these works after the completion of ACB probe.
Of the 94 works, 81 belong to a single project—the Gosikhurd dam in Vidarbha. These 81 works involve an amount of Rs.1,600 crore, Mahajan said. In Konkan region, the government has decided to strike down 12 tenders worth Rs.1,515 crore and in Nashik one irrigation tender worth Rs.189 crore.
“The ACB in its findings so far has revealed that large-scale irregularities have been committed in allotment and partial execution of these works. Since the ACB probe was initiated, there has not been any progress on these projects. That is why we have decided to scrap those works which are under inquiry,” Mahajan said.
He said the government would issue fresh tenders for these works and complete the projects in a time-bound manner.
The state cabinet on Tuesday also gave revised administrative approval to an expense of Rs.18,494 crore to complete the distribution channel network of the Gosikhurd project.
Gosikhurd project inaugurated in 1983. The dam, which was declared a national project in 2007, has been built, but distribution channels have not been completed, the minister said.
“This is the reason why the dam has managed to irrigate only 50,000 hectares against its initially estimated capacity of 2.5 lakh hectares,” Mahajan said. Since it is a national project now, the Centre has to bear 90% of the cost while the state would provide 10%. In 1983, the cost of the project was Rs. 372 crore; it shot up to Rs.5,659 crore in 2008.
Giving the break-up of this multi-fold increase in the project cost, Mahajan said cost escalation since 2008 accounted for Rs.3,545 crore in additional spending. “Due to the increase in land acquisition rates, the cost increased by Rs.1,973 crore. Changes in the concept plan led to an increase of Rs.1646 crore.
Actual physical changes and rehabilitation package shot up the cost by Rs.3,067 crore and Rs.1,490 crore, respectively. We have spent an additional Rs.864 crore on administrative expenses and Rs.247 crore due to inflated tenders,” Mahajan said.
He added that the government hoped to complete the distribution channel network by June 2019.