Thursday, June 20, 2013

Irrigation Scam of Maharashtra: Deliberate cost escalations of 8,616 cr in power projects

MUMBAI: After the coal supply controversy and repeated breakdowns at its power plants in Maharashtra, state-owned generation utility Mahagenco faces yet another serious allegation of corruption.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday alleged deliberate cost escalations of Rs8,616 crore in Mahagenco’s 10 generation projects over the past seven years so that political bosses and officials concerned could earn hefty bribes from private generators who sold power to the state company Mahavitaran. The alleged bribe is 14 paisa per unit which turns out to be hundreds of crore per year.

BJP’s state spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said that the information was based on documents procured under the RTI from Mahagenco. BJP has tried to establish that the cost escalations were because of delays of 12 to 35 months.

The original cost of these projects was Rs23,120 cr. The escalated costs are recovered through tariff from about 2 crore consumers.

“This scam is bigger than the irrigation corruption. And like irrigation, the leaders of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) benefited from this scam as well,” said Bhandari. NCP has

been heading the energy department since 1999 and controls all three power companies.

Bhandari alleged that senior officer SC Thotve, who did not have required qualifications and experience, was made director of projects in 2007. “Thotve is a pawn in the hands of his political masters. He got the job even though a selection panel of experts did not find him suitable,” said Bhandari. He also produced a letter by then union power secretary Uma Shankar asking the state chief secretary to expedite delayed projects.

Mahagenco faces controversy over other matters as well. Coal India Limited (CIL) and its subsidiary Western Coalfield Limited (WCL) have vehemently denied Mahagenco’s allegations for supplying inferior quality coal. They asserted in the Bombay high court on Tuesday that 94% of the coal supplied during last three years was of very superior quality.

The petitioner Anil Wadpalliwar alleged that Mahagenco was happy to import high-priced coal, forcing the state to buy costly power produced by private players and further burden consumers.
20 Jun 2013, Hindustan Times (Mumbai), HT Correspondent,

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