Ajit Pawar atones for his 'sins', but it is obviously too little and too late, making a mockery out of the act. And for the full extent of these 'sins', look to Maharashtra's dams.

After evoking memories of the young French queen Marie Antoinette with his utter disdain, now Ajit Pawar, in repentance mode, brings to mind Lady Macbeth. "Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand." Lady Macbeth, continuing in the same distracted vein, mutters in the course of her monologue,"What’s done cannot be undone."

All so apt for the modern day prince who after being ticked off by his uncle, not for the first time in public, decided to flay his conscience by fasting for a day and introspecting. Long overdue, one would think, and as a rather good quote goes, "Repentance is nothing but mockery when it comes too late".

Ajit Pawar represents the second generation Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders who flaunt their wealth and make no bones about their connections. So in Pune he stays in a rented house belonging to the builder – contractor Avinash Bhosale, prefers large SUVs despite the simplicity of his dressing, where he tends to favour white. Realising that land is premium, he has encouraged a whole lot of people into the party who are essentially into “real estate” and one of his close associates and minister for water resources Sunil Tatkare is facing charges of benami land transactions and shell companies.

Tatkare, if the Opposition is to be believed, has amassed huge tracts of land in the Konkan. He also approved dams around Mumbai for drinking water supply to benefit one single contractor. To counter the Congress, the NCP needs to have a power base and other than sugar factories and educational institutions, land and real estate are the next fiefdom. If there are irregularities, say, in projects, no accountability is ever demanded and if there is a lot of noise, the government has to only set up a committee and sit on the findings.

This is exactly what happened with the three reports which went into irregularities of dams in the state.

Departmental inquiries are dragging on and it is doubtful if action will be taken. According to these reports, the contractors employed a very simple way to make money. First, they got huge mobilisation advances which were arbitrarily approved by the then irrigation minister (guess who that was?) and also devised other means to inflate costs. For instance, a simple thing like transporting gravel – the distances were more than that prescribed by government rules – this alone was a single factor for escalating costs.

The Gosikhurd dam in Vidarbha suffered from poor lining of its canals and leakages. Yet there was no inspection till a central team came down. The litany on dams in Maharashtra can go on forever. There is no shortage of projects with the state having the highest number of dams. The diversions for sugarcane or for industry and drinking water in big cities have reduced supplies for the farmer who needs it the most as a recent draft report by the NGO Prayas had indicated.

One wonders if Mr. Pawar repented for the fact that he allowed diversion of water from dams to industry and cities during the time he was irrigation minister, or that 70 per cent of the water in the state goes towards sugarcane cultivation. Did he also feel rotten about not building dams on time and ensuring proper canal networks? Did he regret approving cost escalations for many dams in a matter of minutes or favouring certain contractors?

It would need more than a lifetime to atone for all this, perhaps, not a single day.