White paper on Maharashtra irrigation scam within three weeks

Maharashtra govt informed Bombay HC that white paper on irrigation scam, involving Water Resources Department and Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC), would be ready in 3 weeks.

Updated: Nov 22, 2012, 19:03 PM IST

Mumbai: Maharashtra government on Thursday informed the Bombay High Court that a white paper on the alleged multi-crore irrigation scam, involving bureaucrats of Water Resources Department and Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC), would be ready within three weeks.
This statement was made by Advocate General Darius Khambata before a division bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Mridula Bhatkar which was hearing a public interest litigation filed by social activist Pravin Wategaonkar seeking a CBI inquiry into the scam.

"A White paper will be ready in this case within three weeks. Based on this we will file an affidavit before the court in reply to the allegations levelled in the petition," Khambata said.

The bench directed the government to file its affidavit by December 20.

Wategaonkar in his petition has alleged criminal conspiracy and misconduct on the part of public servants and sought CBI probe in all projects where cost escalations of Rs 20,000 crore were approved across three months in 2009 by the Water Resources Department (WRD).

"It is not mismanagement or ignorance of the WRD but deliberate and well managed act of massive corruption by WRD and KIDC and contractors paid to carry out works associated with these projects," the petition claims.

Relying on a speech made by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in May this year, Wategaonkar has said, "In the decade beginning with year 2000-01 till 2009-10, the government of Maharashtra has spent about Rs 70,000 crores on irrigation projects. In the next decade the projected cost is Rs 75,000 crores. Probe should be conducted to rein in the unwarranted cost escalations and arbitrariness."

The activist further said many acts of omission and commission by the government departments against public interest would amount to criminal misconduct and abuse of power by public servants and thus an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

According to the petition, even after incurring an expenditure of Rs 4,363 crore up to 2009-10 on 90 projects of KIDC, only 13 projects could be completed.

"Due to slow progress of the projects the very objective of forming KIDC which is for expediting the entire process of completing ongoing projects has failed. The projects which otherwise would have been completed by the irrigation department in ten years, could not be completed by KIDC even after 12 years of its formation," the PIL states.