Chitale committee confirms irrigation scam in Maha, says BJP
Mumbai: The Madhav Chitale committee, appointed by Maharashtra government to probe the Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam, has substantiated the accusation that in spite of a huge expenditure irrigation potential increased by just 0.1 per cent in the last decade, BJP said here on Friday. The committee was set up in December 2012 to study the escalation of costs at various projects. Its report was submitted to the government in March this year. The report, likely to be tabled in the state legislature tomorrow, was leaked by BJP MLA Devendra Phadanvis today. Phadanvis, speaking in the Assembly during a debate today, alleged that committee has said that though as per the official data the state achieved irrigation potential of 2.43 lakh hectares, in reality 2.31 lakh hectares of this is of no use for practical purposes. The report attributes the cost escalation to irregularities in the administrative approvals, he claimed. According to him, the report notes that approvals were granted without finalising the design of the projects, which resulted in massive cost escalations, and this was a major flaw in the process. Wherever major changes have been made to the initial administrative approval, a strict action should be taken against the chief engineer who gave the initial approval, the committee says, according to Phadanvis. The Chitale committee has also recommended action against the top project officers concerned with the expenditure control of the projects, Phadanvis said. In any lift irrigation scheme, where area under irrigation is more than 2,000 hectares, the sanction of the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister is needed. But in the case of Dehni and Waghur lift irrigation scheme, no such permissions were sought, the report says. Phadanvis alleged that cost escalations were brought to the notice of the governing council of the irrigation development corporation by the chief financial officer and executive director, and yet approvals were given for increased costs. Minister for water resources is the chairman of the corporation. The committee has held members and the chairman of corporation responsible for this, the BJP MLA said. NCP stalwart and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who held the water resources portfolio for most of the last decade, had resigned after the allegations of huge cost escalations with no results on the ground surfaced. He later returned to the cabinet. Meanwhile, water resources minister Sunil Tatkare (of NCP) said in the Assembly that the opposition leaked the report only for the publicity`s sake. The government will table the report and the action-taken-report in the legislature, he said. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik also said the report was leaked only to malign the image of the government.
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