Water expert Madhavrao Chitale to head team; terms, members to be finalised before month-end

The Maharashtra government on Monday ordered a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into the multi-crore irrigation scam.

State Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare made the announcement in both the houses of the legislature.

“The SIT will be headed by Madhavrao Chitale and the terms of reference, other members and the deadline of the SIT will be finalised before December 31,” Mr. Tatkare told the lower house in the presence of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

No business could be carried out in the first week of the legislature’s winter session due to the Opposition’s demand for an SIT probe.

Dr. Chitale is a well-known water expert and has worked on various commissions related to the sector in different capacities. He also served as a Secretary to the Union Water Resources Ministry.

Welcoming the probe, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Eknath Khadse said: “The government should also decide on the terms of reference of the SIT, its deadline and other members before this session of the Assembly ends. Until the SIT submits its report, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar should not be given any ministry and Mr. Tatkare should also be removed from the Cabinet.”

Mr. Khadse also demanded that the “tainted officers” should not be a part of this inquiry.

Lashing out at Mr. Pawar, Mr. Khadse said, “Can the inquiry be impartial if Mr. Pawar continues to be a part of the Cabinet? We accept that Mr. Chavan is honest but Mr. Pawar sits right next to Mr. Chavan and he should not allow this dirt to reach him.”

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Devendra Fadnavis, who had proposed the name of Dr. Chitale two weeks ago, said that the SIT should look into the “economic, administrative and legal wrongdoings” of the irrigation sector.

“We have been demanding an SIT probe for the last three months. This announcement is a big political setback for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Mr. Pawar. When there was an inquiry against ministers in the Shiv Sena-BJP government, the accused ministers were not given charge of any ministry. In the same way, the accused ministers in this government should be kept as ‘ministers without portfolios’ if they continue to remain in the Cabinet,” said Mr. Fadnavis.