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Updated: September 26, 2012 12:11 IST

Irrigation scam, a drain on Maharashtra’s exchequer

Meena Menon
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Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. File Photo
The Hindu
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. File Photo

Media have been targeting him for decisions taken between 2004 and 2009, when he held Irrigation portfolio

For a year or so, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has been feeling the heat over alleged irregularities in the irrigation sector, the reason ostensibly behind Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s sudden resignation on Tuesday.

Mr. Pawar held the portfolio in the previous Ministry from 2004 to 2009, and in the past two days, media reports have been targeting his involvement in decisions made during that period. With tenacity, the NCP has been clinging on to the Irrigation portfolio, now called Water Resources Ministry, and when the State’s latest economic survey mentioned that the irrigation potential had grown a minuscule 0.1 per cent in the past decade, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, egged on by a combative Opposition, agreed to a White Paper on irrigation.

What was worse was the explosive information from a chief engineer of the Irrigation Department itself: Vijay Pandhre wrote a letter to the authorities in February, pointing to gross irregularities. When Mr. Pandhre was asked to give details, he produced a 15-page letter in May, citing many instances of how public money was wasted because of corruption and nepotism. He said 99 per cent of the lift irrigation schemes were not functioning, resulting in a loss of Rs. 15,000 crore. An inquiry in the Vidarbha region alone pointed to losses of Rs. 4,400 crore.

Mr. Pandhre said losses for the past 15 years could be in the range of Rs. 20,000 crore in the irrigation sector. There was no analysis of the benefit-cost ratio for projects.

Jan Manch, a voluntary organisation, filed a writ petition in the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court in August, demanding an inquiry into the cost overruns, especially in the Ghosikhurd project in Vidarbha and the alleged siphoning off of public funds. The court has sent notice to the government.

The writ petition said, “Within a span of seven months in 2009, the cost of 38 irrigation projects under the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) escalated by a whopping Rs. 20,050.06 crore — from Rs. 6,672.27 crore to Rs. 26,722.33 crore.”

Thirty of these projects were granted approvals in just four days — August 14, 2009 (11 projects); June 24, 2009 (10 projects); July 7, 2009 (5 projects); and August 18, 2009 (4 projects). The cost of these projects went up by six times the original cost to 33 times with the revised administrative approval granted by the VIDC. In the case of 12 projects, the cost shot up by more than twice the original estimates.

The estimated cost of the Human Nadi project in Sindewahi tehsil in Chandrapur district was Rs.33,67,74. On June 24, 2009, the first revision to administrative approval was done, and the estimated cost was increased to Rs. 1,016.486 crore. It was over 29 times the initial estimated cost. Many revised administrative approvals were granted the same day.

In 10 cases, administrative approvals were revised on June 24 2009. As many complaints came in, the government appointed retired bureaucrat Nandkumar Vadnare in March 2010 to probe the functioning of the VIDC. The one-man committee was asked to investigate various matters relating to the financial years 2006-07, 2008-09, and 2009-2010.

The petitioner said the committee’s report was released in two parts; one part which he accessed concerned the Gosikhurd project. The project cost, as on March 1982, was Rs. 372 crores. It was revised frequently and the latest revised cost, in February 2008, stands at Rs. 7,777.85 crore.

The Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG), in a special performance review of the VIDC, has pointed to sub-standard work done on the Gosikhurd Left Bank Canal, among many instances of shoddy work.

Of the 27 projects selected under the Prime Minister’s Special Rehabilitation Package, the distribution network, including canal works and field channel works, was not started in respect of 12 projects. The CAG report said this negated the objective of the package: to mitigate the distress of farmers.

The petition said the cost of irrigation of one hectare incurred by the State was as high as Rs. 9.81 lakh, against the limit of Rs.1.5 lakh-Rs. 2.5 lakh mandated by the Central Water Commission.

Corruption under the present Water Resources Minister, Sunil Tatkare, has been exposed by the India Against Corruption; at least one dam plan was scrapped after complaints to the Governor, and another has been stayed by the High Court. Many dams have come up without proper permission around Mumbai with huge cost overruns and much in the manner of what happened in Vidarbha. They have all been awarded to the same contractor.

Mr. Tatkare is another NCP Minister against whom the Bharatiya Janata Party has filed a petition in the High Court for his alleged involvement in land scams. Mr Tatkare has been asked to file an affidavit.

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So many scams at such regular pace! We are losing it all. A body like CAG should be put in place. Its duty should be to monitor the various scams being unearthed and put it all in a database, available to all public. Along with the amount of the scam in rupees, the time lost in years, the amount recovered, the no of people convicted should also be mentioned. It should be an easy single point of reference for people to track, if they wish.

Our minds are now getting numb about scams in public place so much so that I fear this generation will be a case of lost hope. I am sure we are going to discuss this for some time before either getting distracted by another scam or simply forget it altogether. But we must preserve all this info for future generations to see. They should understand what we did with our national and natural resources.

from:  syam
Posted on: Sep 27, 2012 at 22:22 IST

Agree with Bhupinder's views. Ajit Pawar and NCP are directly responsible for farmers' suicides.

from:  kalidas
Posted on: Sep 27, 2012 at 14:32 IST

The death and tears of every farmers should be attributed to corruption
of these shameless politicians. Let the next election send everyone

from:  Nagaraju
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 23:58 IST

in maharashtra thousands of farmer comitted suicide but no uproar created on their death shamefully whole money meant for them shiphoned off to bungling and transferred to middlemen and politicians pocket, it is shameful act and horrendous records of govt,whole public is frustrated with corupt system we need immidiate solution,otherwise civil war is imminent,,

from:  bhupinder
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 17:29 IST

I just watched NDTV interview the RTI activist (a women ) from Maharastra ,the reporter Sanjay Pukhan asked

i)at any stage did they put pressure on you to accept bribe in return for withdrawl of RTI applications?

The RTI activist said ,Yes they pressured me and also offered ,Take what you wnat (name your Price )
she said that It is not in her System(to accpet Bribe)

I just watched NDTV ,this shows all states
AP,KARNATAKA ,MAHARASTRA are all involved in Scams
AP state is the biggest ,followed by KARNATAKA state as well

from:  Rama Mohana Rao Anne
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 14:23 IST

This wont change unless we people change. Educated ones have to go out and vote.

from:  Raja Pamarthi
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 14:04 IST

Why do people still vote for NCP? It is our responsibility to keep these crooks out of the system.

from:  Gayathri
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 13:18 IST

Some things in India will never come to an end ! Endless strewing of garbage in public, public defecation, reckless driving and to top it all "Infinite corruption from time immemorial to eternity". Jai Hind!

from:  G Parameswaran
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 13:04 IST

I agree that the country is up for a loot and Politicians are Looting it.

A State/National level Politician donot stand up by Himself. He derives support from District Level, Taluka Level and even from Muncipal Level. In turn, support is from Local Gundas.

So, it is not the MLA/MP who is sole responsible. It is the Pyramid beneth him that is Corrupt and I (as a Citizen) am one of them.

Loss of Culture leads to Corrupt Minds. Corrupt Minds create Corrupt Society . . .

So, we need to work on ethics and culture from Root Level to create atleast few unyielding Leaders out of 1 billion citizens.

This takes atleast a Generation to build and I will not be alive to see it . . .


from:  Prashant
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 12:21 IST

Looks like no one is worried about effect of their acts. Born and brought up in India, one way or the other they would have studied or at least heard about the different epics and the proverb 'what you sow is what you reap'. Even if they could buy the justice system with the ill earned money, will they be able to buy their own consciousness and with what?

from:  Prabakaran
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 11:53 IST

Gosh...This is unacceptable..How many scams are we talking about in last decade..

from:  Kiran
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 11:49 IST

This same party has won the recent local elections in Maharashtra, clearly showing that people there approve corruption.

from:  Mohan
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 11:40 IST

Its very pathetic to say that politicians in our country first do crimes, scams and.....then they simply resign from their post. It is now very common to see pooliticians doing these things.
People of India now want justice for themselves,because, its our money which has been looted.
So its a appeal to JUDICIARY SYSTEM OF INDIA to take initiatives so
that these people get punished for their wrong doings.

from:  rohit mridul tigga
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 11:35 IST

Almost everyday there is a new scam coming up and the files go under the table. This is high time to strengthen the judiciary system to expedite the decision process on such cases which are making the country hollow from inside.

from:  sumit
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 11:32 IST

We Indians will never become a Super Power, unless India comes out of Corruption and its socialist mentality. State Parties giving hand outs to poor and get elected to run the State legislators.Then Corrupt legislators using their power to recoup the money spent on election by unlawful means. This is tip of the ice burg. Its not going to change overnight. God Bless India.

from:  Ranjan Karuppiah
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 11:27 IST

The country is up for a loot. The brazen character of these scams is appalling and amounts to unpatriotism. It's time for anarchy to set in.

from:  Raghu
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 10:50 IST

"since 15 years"? Seriously Hindu?

from:  Shyam
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012 at 00:19 IST
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