New Craft of Looting the Nation – Criminal Dams డిసెంబర్ 3, 2012Posted by M Bharath Bhushan in Andhrapreneurship, Congress, Polavaram, TDP, TRS.
Tags: conspiracy of silence, corrupt dam, irrigation scam, Jala Yagnam, politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus
Only criminal probe can unravel scam in irrigation projects
Nauzer K Bharucha, TNN Nov 30, 2012
Mumbai: For the past ten years, a politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus has had a free run of multi-crore irrigation projects in the state. Rules were blatantly flouted, project estimates illegally revised and permissions brazenly granted without adequate precautions and mandatory clearances.
Government sources said that only a criminal investigation could unravel the extent of the scam, described as the largest in Maharashtra’s history. “The white paper on irrigation projects submitted to the state cabinet on Thursday is merely a data collection exercise. If there is an independent judicial inquiry, the Democratic Front government will collapse, considering the involvement of powerful politicians and officials,” said a source.
A senior irrigation department official said, “If the state government claims that all is well in the white paper, why were 45 engineers of Vidarbha charged for irregularities? The 2010 Vadnare committee, too, found grave malpractice in awarding inflated tenders in Vidarbha. This is not possible without the connivance of politicians. This requires an FIR to be filed. Instead, we just have a chargesheet against a few engineers.”
An inquiry into irrigation corporations in the Konkan, Godavari-Marathwada, Tapi and Krishna Valley regions would put many more officials in the dock. “The white paper is absurd,” said the official, who was among those asked to collect data for the document.
Experts said a probe would expose the frivolous reasons cited by officials to inflate project costs. Their modus operandi was to inflate the official estimate while inviting tenders and increase it again after receiving bids from contractors. Water resources department chief engineer and whistleblower Vijay Pandhare has estimated that the loss due to this process in Vidarbha alone could be around Rs 4,000 crore.
Officials would also cite frivolous reasons for cost escalation. These include adding various taxes already envisaged in the original estimate, imposing extra rates on raw material and upgrade of machinery, and increasing transport costs.
Information procured by TOI reveals the exorbitant rates of materials used in the construction of dams and canals across the state. Tender rates for pipes, for instance, were fixed at Rs 1.5 lakh a tonne when the actual cost was Rs 70,000 a tonne. The cost of concrete, which should have been in the range of Rs 4,000-5,000 a cubic metre, was fixed at Rs 12,000-15,000.
The price of hearting and casing was as high as Rs 500 a cubic metre when the actual cost was barely half of that figure. The tender cost of tunnel excavation was fixed at Rs 5,000-6,000 a cubic metre even as the actual cost was Rs 2,000. These price lists pertain to irrigation contracts awarded between 2006 and 2009. The cost of irrigation per hectare incurred in Maharashtra is as high as Rs 9 lakh a hectare compared to the Central Water Commission’s limit of Rs 1.25 – 2.5 lakh.
Sources cited the case of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC). It floated tenders worth Rs 11,126 crore during the financial years 2007-08 and 2008-09, when the total allocation in the state budget was just Rs 5,700 crore.
How estimates for irrigation contracts are inflated
A project, if prudently planned, may cost 80 crore. But unscrupulous irrigation officials will invite tenders at 100 crore. Contractors will quote 125 crore (25% above the 100-crore estimate). But the rules do not permit such high quotations (any bid 4.99% above the estimate has to be approved in Mantralaya) To circumvent scrutiny in Mantralaya, irrigation officials revise the original estimate from 100 crore to 120.1 crore on frivolous grounds.
This revision is done after the bids are received, which is illegal Thus, a contractor who quotes 125 crore procures the work order as it is below the 4.99% limit (if 120.1 crore is considered as the final estimate) What is shown as 120.10 crore + 4.9 crore (totalling a bid quote of 125 crore) is actually 100 crore + 25 crore.