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Irrigation scam: SIT submits report to Maharashtra CM

Onus seems to have been put on officials of irrigation department & not on political bosses

Sanjay Jog  |  Mumbai 

A special investigation team (SIT), led by water expert Madhav Chitale on Saturday submitted a 1,361-page report on the multi-crore irrigation scam to Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. The report is believed to have put the onus on irrigation officials and didn't blame any politician for cost and time escalation. The report has also alleged irregularities in various clearances.

The government has given 15 days to the Maharashtra Water Resources Development Centre, Aurangabad, which provided the secretarial back-up to SIT, to prepare an executive summary in a simple language for the benefit of the public. The state Cabinet is expected to take up the SIT report for its consideration and later upload it on the government website. However, ministers from both Congress and NCP declined to provide specific time frame for taking up the SIT report for the Cabinet's consideration in view of the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.

The special investigation team was set up on December 31, 2012 following strong demand by opposition parties following series of expose on the alleged irrigation scam. Chavan's statement that during 1999-2010, irrigation potential rose by mere 0.1 per cent embarrassed the Congress party's allay the NCP, which handles water resources department. However, the NCP and water resources department subsequently argued that the actual rise was 27 per cent.

Opposition parties and various non-government organisations alleged that within a span of seven months in 2009, cost of 38 irrigation projects being implemented by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) escalated by a whopping Rs 20,050.06 crore to Rs 26,722.33 crore from Rs 6,672.27 crore. Thirty of the 38 projects were granted hurried approvals in just four days. The projects include 11 projects on August 14, 2009, 10 projects on June 2009, five projects on July 7, 2009 and four projects on August 18, 2009. The Vadnere committee, in its report, observed that the cost updating of 37 out of total 137 major tenders were carried as per the government norms.

Chitale told Business Standard ,’’The report has been submitted to the chief minister. SIT will vet the executive summary to be prepared by the Maharashtra Water Resources Development Centre, Aurangabad.’’ Chitale however, declined to divulge details.

Chitale said SIT had devoted one chapter each on nine terms of reference. The committee was to fix the responsibility for irregularities if any during investigations and suggest actions.

First Published: Sat, March 01 2014. 22:05 IST