The Balganga dam project in Raigad is one of the 14 controversial projects against which the previous BJP-Shiv Sena government under chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had initiated an investigation by the state Anti-Corruption Bureau for its huge cost escalation.
The alleged scam around these projects dates back to 2009, when the Congress and NCP were in power under the watch of Ajit Pawar, currently the deputy chief minister.
He was then the water resources minister.
The Balganga dam was meant for supply of drinking water for expanding areas of Navi Mumbai. The project had courted controversy since its inception with the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC) warning then Congress-NCP government against approving the revised cost estimates — from Rs 353.89 crore, the project cost spiked to Rs 1,220 crore.
On Tuesday, in a relief to the state, CIDCO and KIDC, the Bombay High Court quashed last April’s order by an arbitral tribunal that had directed the government to pay Rs 303 crore to FA Enterprises towards unpaid bills for the construction of the dam,
The ACB chargesheet in the case relating to the dam had not directly mentioned any political leader or minister for the alleged scam. It had, instead named 10 people, including officials of F A Enterprises, KIDC and CIDCO.
BJP and Shiv Sena, then coalition partners, had argued that without political patronage, such a scam would not have been possible, a charge that Pawar had denied several times.
On Wednesday, the Sena-led government refused to officially comment on the issue.
A senior Cabinet minister, on the condition of anonymity, said, “The court verdict is a comment on contractors and not ministers. Moreover, since the matter relates to a court verdict and the project is under ACB scanner, it would be unfair to make any comment.”
The Thane unit of ACB had filed a chargesheet in the Balganga case in 2016, which is still going on. The contractor was accused of diverting around Rs 494 crore, paid by the government, into accounts of dummy companies. The ED is also investigating the case.
In 2016, the state water resources department lead by Girish Mahajan had cancelled 94 tenders for the 14 projects. Of these, 12 tenders were from irrigation works in Konkan, 81 related to Gosikhurd National Irrigation Project, which comes under Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation, and one project in Nashik.
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