The purpose of the ‘White Paper’ on Irrigation presented in front of the Maharashtra Cabinet on Thursday was to give more information, said the Maharashtra State Pradesh Congress Committee on Saturday, remarking that the issued document was not meant to be ‘an inquiry report’.
Speaking to reporters, State Congress President Manikrao Thakre said that the chief purpose of the document was present more information about the State’s irrigation projects.
“There was no question of the Paper unearthing any corruption... The Chief Minister was asked to respond to the findings of the State Economic Survey, so he called for a White paper to be issued by the State Irrigation department,” he commented.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has held the coveted Irrigation department since 1999, which was first helmed by former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and presently by Sunil Tatkare.
Asked if the Congress was going along with the report by giving its ally a tacit clean chit, Mr. Thakre said there was no question of the ruling party giving any value judgement on the White Paper.
He remained tight-lipped on how two government documents, the Economic Survey and the White Paper, gave very different figures on the state of Irrigation projects in Maharashtra.
The White Paper disputed the findings of the Economic Survey that had pegged the decadal growth in the state’s irrigation capacity at a mere 0.1 per cent.
State Water Resources Minister and senior NCP leader Sunil Tatkare said that Maharashtra’s irrigation capacity had risen to 5.17 per cent in the last decade.
As per the document, there has been a 28 percent growth in irrigated land in the state in the last decade, with only Rs. 42,000 crore, and not Rs. 70,000 crore, being spent on irrigation projects in the state during the last decade.
On being asked whether the White paper would pave the way for Ajit Pawar’s reinstatement in the cabinet, Mr. Thakre said the issue was the NCP’s concern.
“Neither the Congress nor the Chief Minister had asked for his resignation,” he said.
According to the NCP, blame could be apportioned only on the Irrigation Department as far as the cost of work orders of the irrigation projects were concerned, and not establishment and administrative costs.
In the report, the blame for project cost overruns have been chiefly pinned on factors like delays in land acquisition, providing relief and rehabilitation, forest clearances which fall under the purview of the Public Revenue, Irrigation and Forest departments – all held by Congress ministers.