State Education Minister Vinod Tawde is soon likely to be in the eye of another storm after a desk officer from his department alleged Tawde’s Officer on Special Duty (OSD) sought cut from him for favouring certain contractors.
Shashikant Salunkhe, a desk officer working in the Minorities Welfare department that reports to Tawde, was suspended in June 2017 following allegations that he had issued work orders to contractors that were not listed in the original decision made by the Principal Secretary, Minorities Welfare Shyam Tagade. He was served a show cause notice asking why certain contractors were awarded work via a Government Resolution for works worth Rs 2.60 crore. The works included road construction, school building repairs and mosques repairs among others.
Salunkhe claimed, in his written response to the Principal Secretary, he was asked to incorporate these names by Tawde’s OSD Dr Charudutt Shinde. He further claimed Shinde asked him to alter the names over phone and also sought Rs one lakh from him. Salunkhe added that he paid the money after borrowing it from his friends. Salunkhe’s written response, a copy of which is with DNA, was not accepted by the department and he was suspended pending inquiry.
The inquiry is still incomplete, while Shinde, who is related to Union Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, was left untouched despite serious allegations against him.
“It is clear that Salunkhe violated the procedure,” says Tagade. “After the proposal is made, we finalise contractors from the government approved list and the file is sent for clearance to the minister. After we received complaints, we tallied who were given contracts and found that the GR list and the proposed list did not match. We spoke to the people Salunkhe had named but did not find any evidence against Dr Shinde or others. Hence Salunkhe has been suspended pending inquiry.”
Dr Shinde refused to speak despite repeated calls and SMS. Tawde said that allegations made by Salunkhe are baseless. “An inquiry has already been initiated in this matter. If there is any evidence against Charudutta Shinde, it will come out in inquiry. We are not here to protect any one,” said Tawde.
Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Nawab Malik called for a thorough and unbiased inquiry in the matter which he said was simply the tip of an iceberg.
“Tawde handles departments that have an overall budget of Rs 30,000 crore. A desk officer has given in writing that Tawde’s OSD has received money. This is clearly a racket going on and it needs to be properly investigated by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The government is trying to brush yet another scam under the carpet. For the inquiry to be fair, Tawde must resign from the post,” he said.