Mumbai: The housing scandal that culminated in Monday’s arrest of Maharashtra minister Gulabrao Deokar involves a project that dates back 15 years, when the NCP leader was the chairman of the construction committee for the Jalgaon Municipal Council.
Before Deokar, the Minister of State for Transport, police had arrested Jalgaon MLA Sureshdada Jain, who belongs to the Shiv Sena, besides builders, contractors and a former mayor. Both Jain and Deokar are out on bail, with the latter released the very day of his arrest. Deokar, 56, is incidentally the founder and the head of the Sureshdada Jain Technical and Polytechnic College in Jalgaon.
The case involves the construction of low-cost houses for the poor. As chairman of the construction committee, Deokar in 1997 approved the scheme that envisaged 11,424 homes at nine sites in Jalgaon. Deokar was also among the members of a committee set up to oversee its implementation.
In February 2006, a case was registered at the Zilla Peth police station in Jalgaon by IAS officer Pravin Gedam, who was then municipal commissioner of Jalgaon. His FIR named 91 persons including Deokar and Jain, members of the council, builders and contractors, accusing them of criminal conspiracy, cheating and submitting forged documents under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The sum mentioned then was Rs 29 crore.
Subsequent investigations found that a total of Rs 46 crore had been given by the JMC to various contractors and builders as advance payment. Over and above this, investigators claim, the JMC suffered losses amounting to Rs 150 crore, which the JMC had to pay HUDCO for defaulting on a loan. Officials said that barely 15 per cent of the work has been completed.
According to the investigation, the construction cost had been estimated at Rs 110 crore. The Jalgaon Municipal Council raised loans worth Rs 56 crore from HUDCO and the rest from private institutions. The probe found that the initial installments of the loans were diverted to accounts of Khandesh Builders which, investigators allege, is actually a front for Jain.
The first arrests in the case came in January this year, those of Rajendra Mayur and Jagannath Vani of Khandesh Builders, and former Jalgaon mayor Jalgaon Pradip Raisoni. Investigations revealed that after the tender had been awarded to Khandesh Builders, the conditions were modified so that the houses would be built at only one site.
Jain, a former minister, was arrested in March. He got interim bail on medical grounds.
Deokar had first been called for questioning on February 2. He was questioned for one hour. He was issued a summons to the police station on Saturday, but did not turn up. Later that day, a second summons was issued asking him to appear on Monday. He was arrested and then released on bail.
“The total amount in the scam taking into account the misappropriation and wrongful loss is over Rs 170 crore. Fifty arrests have been made so far; 13 of them are still in jail. We have already filed a chargesheet and will file a supplementary one in a few days,” said investigating officer Ishu Sindhu.
Deokar, born January 20, 1956, in Jalgaon, holds a commerce degree and is a businessman . He was chairman of the District Majdoor Federation between 1988 and 2000, and the NCP’s district president between 2003 and 2006.
He was elected for the first time to the Assembly in 2009 and appointed Minister of State for Agriculture and Fisheries. In a reshuffle in 2010, he was made MoS for Transport, Agriculture and EGS.
Apart from being the founder head of the Sureshdada Jain tech college, he was a member of the senate of Northern Maharashtra University in Jalgaon in 2005-10. Other posts he has held include deputy chairman of the Jalgaon Central Cooperative Bank in 1997-98 and 2008-09.
In the municipal council, after chairing the construction committee in 1997-98, he was the council’s president in 1999-2000. In 2003-04, he chaired the municipal corporation’s standing committee.
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