HomeNationDouble Trouble: The Alleged Multi-Crore Scam Amid Dual-Hatted Administration in Badlapur

Double Trouble: The Alleged Multi-Crore Scam Amid Dual-Hatted Administration in Badlapur

Twitter: @VivekBhavsar

Mumbai: In the bustling town of Badlapur, located in the Thane district of Maharashtra, a shadow has been cast over its administrative machinery. The local officials of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have hurled accusations of an alleged scam involving 600 crores of rupees within the Kulgaon-Badlapur Municipal Council.

Uproar amongst the locals began during the COVID-19 crisis. The administrative head of Badlapur allegedly carried out unauthorized transactions without the approval of district authorities over the past three years. Former councilor Sambhaji Shinde and other officials have decided to lodge a formal complaint with the Finance Minister, Mr. Devendra Fadnavis.

Speaking to TheNews21.com, former councilor Sambhaji Shinde pointed out that after the tenure of Lokayukta members ended in April 2020, the state government appointed a Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) from Ulhasnagar as the administrator. In October 2020, the Chief Officer of Kulgaon-Badlapur Municipal Council (KBMC) was bestowed with the additional responsibilities of an administrator.

Interestingly, since the tenure of the elected councilors ended in April 2020, the municipal elections have not been conducted till June 2023. This has led to a unique scenario where, for the past three years, the powers of both the Chief Officer and the Administrator have been vested in a single person. During this period, Deepak Pujari has been at the helm of the municipality’s affairs, acting as both the Chief Officer and Administrator.

Shinde has alleged that according to the Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats, and Industrial Townships Act 1965, no powers have been specifically assigned to administrative presidents. This, Shinde claims, has led to the misuse of authority by the administrator, resulting in financial malpractices involving crores of rupees.

The allegations have sent shockwaves through the region as citizens and officials alike demand transparency and accountability. As the clamor for a thorough investigation into the alleged multi-crore scam grows louder, the town of Badlapur looks towards its leaders for answers and justice.

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Will this be a case of timely action and upholding of justice, or yet another instance where accusations fizzle out? The town waits with bated breath as the administration faces scrutiny, and the tussle between political leaders intensifies.

In March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic started to escalate in India, a nationwide lockdown was imposed. The Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 and the Disaster Management Act of 2005 were invoked, giving local administrations special powers, including authorization to impose regulations and incur expenses for the welfare of the public. The lockdown and the two acts were later lifted in September 2021.

Recently, allegations have been made regarding the misuse of power and funds by local municipality officials. Typically, before any development work proposals are passed in the local municipalities, they are presented in a general meeting, where the mayor places their proposals for approval. However, according to Shinde, officials bypassed this process and fraudulently approved hundreds of crores of rupees’ worth of proposals based solely on administrative notes and under their own authority.

Shinde alleged that officials did not visit the actual sites where the approved works were to be executed, and no assessment was made regarding the necessity of the work. Furthermore, it is claimed that essential technical maps were not included while preparing estimates for the work, and technical approvals were granted without them. The city engineer has the authority to approve proposals up to ten lakh rupees. This authority was allegedly exploited by dividing each

work into separate chunks of ten lakhs or below and then obtaining administrative approval.

The allegations further suggest that during the financial years 2021-22 and 2022-23, the officials granted approval to administrative resolutions worth more than fifteen hundred of 10 lakhs each. A report regarding this alleged fraudulent activity has been submitted to the district auditor.

The district auditor, however, does not have the authority to conduct physical verification of the site, so their auditing was based on the documents provided by the municipality. Shinde claims that a thorough investigation by a competent technical authority would reveal administrative corruption amounting to hundreds of crores of rupees.

Shinde has also highlighted that while a municipal administrator is in office, they are required to obtain permission from the district head for any work. However, he alleges that the administrators of the Badlapur Municipality approved all resolutions within their own jurisdiction without providing any plans to the district heads.

Meanwhile, Deepak Pujari, then administrator and CO of KBMC, refuted allegations charged by the former councilor Sambhaji Shinde. Mr. Pujari said that he served only six months being an administrator. He further said that he gave approval to the proposals related to only Covid works and did nothing to approve any other development works.

Mr. Pujari said there was no financial capacity of KBMC to spend 600 crores rupees even during the Covid pandemic, then how can someone blame the corruption of the said amount? He added that there were government-appointed two auditors and a city engineer in the service of KBMC, so the possibility of corruption is impossible.

Vivek Bhavsar
Vivek Bhavsar
Vivek Bhavsar is the Editor-in-Chief. He is a senior journalist with more than 30 years of experience in political and investigative journalism. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheNews21. He has worked with leading English mainline dailies, including The Asian Age and Free Press Journal, and also carries the experience of strides in leading regional newspapers like Lokmat and Saamana. During his stints at reputed vernacular and English-language dailies, he has demonstrated his versatility in covering the gamut of beats from policy-making to urban ecology.  While reporting extensively on socio-political issues across Maharashtra, he found his métier in political journalism as an expert on government policy-making. He made his mark as an investigative journalist with exposes of government corruption and deft analyses of the decisions made in Mantralaya, as exemplified in his series of reports on the multi-crore petrochemical project at Nanar in the state’s Konkan region, which ultimately compelled the government to scrap the enterprise.


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