45 officials of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation under the scanner

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Saturday approved departmental inquiry against 45 officials of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) after large scale irregularities were revealed in a report by a one-member committee headed by Nandkumar Vadnere, a retired bureaucrat.

Mr. Chavan confirmed that he had ordered the departmental inquiry but did not give details. The Vadnere report, submitted in 2010, is in two parts — the first one on the Gosikhurd national irrigation project and the second one on the performance of VIDC over four financial years from 2006 to 2010.

While the VIDC initiated departmental inquiry against 14 officials concerning the Gosikhurd project, there was no action against those responsible for other misdemeanours in part two of the report including huge cost escalations, instant approvals and other faults.

The decision of the Chief Minister comes after a meeting with the former Water Resources Minister Ajit Pawar on Thursday. Mr. Chavan confirmed he met Mr. Pawar but did not divulge details. A writ petition in the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court had demanded an inquiry into the Gosikhurd project.

Mr. Pawar, who resigned from the government, has stated that he was targeted for various flaws in the irrigation sector that he headed in the previous ministries and would only come back once his name was cleared by a proposed white paper.

The Chief Minister has been under pressure to order a probe into the alleged scams in irrigation and the fact that Rs. 72,000 crore was spent in a decade, ending in 2010 with an addition of a mere 0.1 per cent of irrigation potential.