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Maharashtra irrigation scam: ACB puts onus on Ajit Pawar

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Ajit Pawar

Nagpur | The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has informed the Bombay High Court that its probe into the alleged multi-crore irrigation scam has revealed major lapses on part of the state’s former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and other government officials.

The scam, pegged at around Rs 70,000 crore, relates to alleged corruption and irregularities in approval and execution of various irrigation projects in Maharashtra during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rule.

Pawar was among the NCP ministers who were in-charge of the irrigation department at different times between 1999 and 2014 during the Congress-NCP coalition rule in Maharashtra. ACB’s Director General Sanjay Barve filed an affidavit before the Nagpur bench of the high court on Tuesday in response to a petition filed by an NGO, Janmanch.

The NGO, in it’s petition, raised concerns over irregularities in irrigation projects undertaken by the Vidharba and Konkan Irrigation Development Corporations.

The affidavit described the scam as a “weird case of conspiracy” in the water resources department which has “defrauded the government itself”.

“The dramatis personae, who put up this performance that cost the government dearly, are simply trying to hide behind the framework of rules and pass the buck,” it said.

It said several projects of the Vidarbha and Konkan irrigation development corporations suffered delays, cost escalations and non-realisation of projected goals of irrigation during Pawar’s stewardship as minister for water resources department.

“The ACB has observed that various irregularities have been committed in several of these tenders/works with uncanny similarity,” Barve said in his affidavit.

During inquiries, Pawar claimed he took decisions based on recommendations of secretary-level officers and that most of the decisions were taken at the field level, the affidavit said.

“It is observed that the minister in-charge of the water resources department shoves the responsibility on to the officers,” it said.

The ACB further said it had sought the opinion of the water resources department’s principal secretary about Pawar’s role as the minister.

The principal secretary, in his reply to the ACB, said Rule 10 of the Maharashtra Government Rules of Business and Instructions was self-explanatory and that nothing more needed to be added.

“Rule 10 of the Maharashtra Government Rules of Business and Instructions makes the minister in-charge of the department responsible for all the business and disposal thereof pertaining to the said department,” the affidavit mentioned.

The anti-graft agency also said that officials of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) obtained several major pecuniary advantages for contractors, contrary to public interest.

“The ACB has now filed 24 FIRs against officers and contractors in relation to projects of the VIDC and has closely examined the role of Respondent 7 (Pawar),” it said.

The affidavit alleged that VIDC’s officials bypassed procedures, acted against the government’s interest, favoured a select group of contractors and ensured that they got pecuniary benefits.

“The officials allowed and accepted sub-standard work and thereby caused a drain upon the public exchequer. These officials acted in an orchestrated manner,” it charged.

“It is like an orchestra where players have done their bit to create symphony and no one is ready to own up to the jarring notes,” it added.

The ACB has sought time to further probe the irregularities and initiate criminal action in accordance with the law.

Earlier this month, senior NCP leader Dhananjay Munde had denied Pawar’s involvement in the alleged scam and accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of trying to vitiate the political atmosphere ahead of elections.

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Hasmukh Adhia rumoured to be the next RBI governor: sources

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Hasmukh Adhia

New Delhi | After the resignation of Reserve Bank of India governor Urjit Patel on Monday, former Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia is rumoured to be the next RBI governor, as per unconfirmed sources.

Adhia, a 1981-batch Gujarat cadre officer of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS), served as a secretary in the Department of Financial Services after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister.  A close of aide of  PM Narendra Modi and Arun Jailtley retired on November 30 this year.

Adhia also served as the Union Revenue Secretary and Union Financial Services Secretary, in the Union Government which makes his case stronger for the post of the RBI governor.

Earlier Urjit Patel on Monday resigned from the post of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor. Patel’s three year team was to end in September 2019. Patel is also the first RBI governor to resign since 1990.

Submitting his resignation, Urjit Patel cited personal reasons and stepped down with immediate effect. He said, “On account of personal reasons, I have decided to step down from my current position effective immediately. It has been my privilege and honour to serve in the Reserve Bank of India in various capacities over the years,” Urjit Patel said in a statement. “The support and hard work of RBI staff, officers and management has been the proximate driver of the Bank’s considerable accomplishments in recent years. I take this opportunity to express gratitude to my colleagues and Directors of the RBI Central Board, and wish them all the best for the future,” he added.

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Breaking: Vijay Mallya to be extradited to India

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Vijay Mallya

London | In what could be termed as end of the party for the king of good time, Liqour baron Vijay Mallya to be extradited to India as the London court gives its nod for the same

London’s Westminster Magistrates Court orders the extradition of Vijay Mallya to India. The Court has further referred the matter of extradition of Vijay Mallya to India to the Secretary of State. The Central beaurue of Investigation has welcomed the decision of the London’s court. Chief Magistrate Judge Emma Arbuthnot announcing the order stated that he found prima facie a case against Vijay Mallya for fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

Speaking on the extradition CBI said,”We hope to bring him soon and conclude the case. CBI has its own inherent strengths. We worked hard on this case. We are strong on Law and facts and we were confident while pursuing extradition process.”

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Urjit Patel resigns from RBI governor’s post

Anil Rajpurohit

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Urjit Patel

New Delhi | Urjit Patel on Monday resigned from the post of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor. Patel’s three year team was to end in September 2019. Patel is also the first RBI governor to resign since 1990.

Submitting his resignation, Urjit Patel cited personal reasons and stepped down with immediate effect. He said, “On account of personal reasons, I have decided to step down from my current position effective immediately. It has been my privilege and honour to serve in the Reserve Bank of India in various capacities over the years,” Urjit Patel said in a statement. “The support and hard work of RBI staff, officers and management has been the proximate driver of the Bank’s considerable accomplishments in recent years. I take this opportunity to express gratitude to my colleagues and Directors of the RBI Central Board, and wish them all the best for the future,” he added.

RBI Governor Urjit Patel earlier appeared before a parliamentary panel to brief on demonetisation and NPA situation in the public sector banks, among other issues. The RBI Governor appeared before the panel days after the central bank’s face-off with the finance ministry over issues ranging from appropriate size of reserves to be maintained by RBI to easing of lending norms for small and medium enterprises.

Business Editor of HW Business and Finance Akhilesh Bhargav states it is not only the failure of the finance ministry but the board of the Reserve Bank of India.

Urjit Patel who was appointed as the 24th Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) succeded Raghuram Rajan on 4 September 2016.

 

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