Arvind Kejriwal demands Sunil Tatkare’s resignation
In its first public rally since its inception, Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘Aam Aadmi’ party released a ‘Black Paper on Irrigation’ on Sunday to systematically counter the Maharashtra government’s controversial White Paper on the state of irrigation affairs.
The Black Paper debunks most of the claims made in the government version, notably the claim by the State Water Resources Department (WRD) claim that the irrigated area in the State from 2000-01 to 2010-11 had risen by 72 per cent — from 17.5 lakh to 29 lakh hectares.
The paper was symbolically released in midst of a packed audience in Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare’s stronghold here. Decrying the roles of Mr. Tatkare and the former Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar, in the irrigation scam, Mr. Kejriwal demanded Mr. Tatkare’s resignation.
Earlier in the day, thousands of activists and leaders of different farmer organisations in the State joined the rally that commenced from Chembur in Mumbai. Also present were activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, Anjali Damania and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana MLA Raju Shetty.
Entitled “Damned by the Irrigation scam,” the two-part document based on government data purports to disprove the WRD’s tall claims about the area brought under irrigation, which it remarks as being ‘manipulative and entirely contradictory.’
According to the Black Paper, the State’s gross irrigated area increased by a mere 8.9 per cent during the last decade despite the WRD having an annual outlay of Rs. 7,000 crore per annum, amounting to a staggering Rs. 70,000 crore worth funds pumped in during the last decade. It says the per hectare cost shot up to a whopping Rs. 21.67 lakh during the period.
Dubbing the WRD’s White Paper as a farcical exercise, the paper terms the gesture a bogus attempt of face-saving predicated on account of political compulsions.
The data in the Black Paper is however calculated from a variety of government sources in the public domain, the reason cited in the report that most of the information was not readily available and that the efforts to use information via RTI were being stonewalled.
According to it, while both the NABARD and the CWC almost concur on the irrigation potential in Maharashtra (NABARD pegs it at 8.4 Mha while the CWC has stated it as 8.952 Mha), the figure given by the WRD is way above, standing at 12.6 Mha.
According to the report, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Odisha that have a large number of dams have drastically increased their Net Irrigated Area between 2000 and 2008, while in Maharashtra, despite being numerically superior in the number of dams built (1,676 dams), the Net Irrigated Area had steadily decreased (by 2.09 per cent) during the same period.
It notes that the Kondhane project, which started off at Rs. 56.14 crore now overshot its costs by 993.69 per cent to 614 crore. Moreover, the height was increased from 39 meters to 71 meters within one month of tender approval.
“Work was commenced though the proposal for forest clearance has still not reached the MoEF. The dam is set to submerge 261 hectares of forest land,” notes the report.
It similarly notes that the proposals for forest clearances had still not reached the MoEF in case of the Barvi, Kalu and the Balganga dams.
In all the case, M/s F.A. Enterprises was the only contractor to have been awarded the projects, pointing to a lethal contractor-politician-bureaucrat nexus.