File reply to plea on Aruna dam graft, HC tells State

Plea says rehabilitation measures inadequate, State has increased project cost

May 19, 2019 12:06 am | Updated 12:06 am IST - Mumbai

The Vacation Bench of the Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to file a reply to a petition alleging corruption in the construction of Aruna dam in Sindhudurg district.

A Division Bench of Justices Ajay Gadkari and N.M. Jamdar on Wednesday was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Tanaji Kamble, a social worker from Sindhudurg. He is a project-affected person (PAP) of Aruna Medium Irrigation Project in the Konkan Division, covered under the Maharashtra Project Affected Persons Rehabilitation Act. Mr. Kamble’s land in village Bhom has been acquired for the project.

The PIL mentions that it has been filed on behalf of economically disadvantaged residents of Bhom, Akavane and Nagabwadi of Sindhudurg, all of whom are PAPs fighting for their rehabilitation.

Construction work under the project started in 2005. It received government approval in December 1995 at an estimated cost of ₹53.94 crore at 1993-94 price-levels. The PIL said the acquisition has affected more than 1,050 landholders and landless labourers, farmers and their families in Bhom, Akavane and Nagabwadi. The amount given towards compensation is meagre and it is hardly possible for the affected persons to build tenements on the new premises after depositing the occupancy price to the government, it said.

The PIL alleged that the State has issued tenders from time to time for irrigation and rehabilitation of PAPs, but the work has not been completed within the stipulated time with the ulterior motive of raising the cost of the project to ₹1,689 crore. This project, like the Kondhane irrigation scam, to smells of corruption, it said. “It can be prima facie made out that some government officials along with politicians may have indulged in corrupt activities as the budget has been raised from time to time,” the PIL said.

The plea urges the State to establish a new gaothan for the rehabilitation of villagers and set up a committee headed by a retired judge to enquire about the work done.

The Bench directed the government to file an affidavit and adjourned the matter to June 17.

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