It’s a season of scams in Maharashtra. After a series of irregularities — first in the irrigation sector, then in toll recovery and construction of the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi, the Bombay High Court has found prima facie evidence of a “Rs 6,000-crore corruption” in purchase of materials for tribal development schemes.
Hearing a public interest suit, a division bench on Thursday observed that the irregularities happened during 2006 and 2009, when Nationalist Congress Party leader, Vijaykumar Gavit, was the minister.
The purchases under scanner were made to curb malnutrition, distribution of cows and buffaloes, supply of diesel engine and pipes, etc. The petitioner, Bahiram Popatrao Motiram, a tribal from Nashik district, has pleaded for constitution of a special team to probe the multi-crore scam. The state government, besides seven others, is the lead respondent.
The court has also directed the state government to immediately submit to the registrar general the necessary files pertaining to various purchases made by the tribal development department and its undertakings. The court rejected the government’s plea for giving time to copy those files.
The petitioner alleged the tribal development department, on the last day of March 2006, procured liquid protein without following the procurement procedure or floating tenders. Also, the liquid protein bottles were not distributed, though the amount was disbursed. Further, the department sanctioned and disbursed Rs 6.30 crore on March 31, 2006, for supply of mats to Ashram School students. The petitioner said the record had been created by authorities for the supply of mats. Against the price of Rs 200-300 per mat in the open market, Rs 1,930 per mat was quoted.
There has also been an alleged corruption in the distribution of cows and buffaloes to tribals, besides many other cases like fraud in the supply of diesel engines to farmers in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
The court’s observations come at a time when Gavit is busy campaigning for civic elections in his home district. He took some time out of the election process and told Business Standard: “There is no corruption. The purchases are sanctioned by a committee comprising seven or more IAS officers. The Central Bureau of Investigation has inquired into the case and closed it.”
Gavit’s successor and the current tribal development minister, Babanrao Pachpute, said he had convened a meeting with senior officials comprising state chief secretary, law secretary and tribal development secretary on Saturday to chart the future course of action. He, too, ruled out any corruption.