Thursday, May 2, 2013

Irrigation Scam of Maharashtra: Whistleblower asks SIT to probe netas’ role

Writes To Inquiry Panel Chief, Says He Can And Must Fix Responsibility

Mumbai: Senior irrigation department engineer Vijay Pandhare, the whistle blower in the state irrigation scam, has said the government-appointed Chitale committee probing the irregularities should focus on the role of politicians and bureaucrats.

In a letter to Madhav Chitale, who heads the Special Investigation Team (SIT), Pandhare said the SIT chief has powers to unearth irregularities and fix responsibility.

Chitale earlier stated that he had no powers to summon or investigate anyone. But Pandhare debunked his claim, stating that the terms of reference clearly allowed him to probe irregularities.

In December, CM Prithviraj Chavan appointed Chitale, a former water resources bureaucrat, to investigate the multi-crore irrigation scam. But activists said the committee would end up as another “whitewash” because Chitale had no experience or power to undertake a criminal investigation.

Top state politicians, bureaucrats and water department officers are believed to have siphoned off half of the over Rs 70,000 crore spent by the state government on irrigation projects.

Pandhare created a sensation last year by writing to the CM and the governor, alleging that Rs 35,000 crore may have been wasted on dud irrigation projects.

In his latest letter, he advised Chitale to invite complaints from the public and investigate. “It is the callousness and greed of officers which caused chaos in the water department. It will become worse in the future. You must not shirk your responsibility as SIT chief. If you do, then it’s better to resign,” said Pandhare’s letter.

The whistleblower then listed 33 major irregularities with detailed explanations on how fraud is committed in the department. He specifically mentioned how basic estimates of tenders are prepared at exorbitant prices without any survey or study.

Pandhare said the scope of projects is abruptly changed to jack up the costs. He cited six such projects, five of which are in the drought-prone areas of Vidarbha. Nerdhamna, one of the projects mentioned by Pandhare, was inspected by governor K Sankarnarayanan early this year. The Centre rejected funds for this project because of cost escalation from Rs 190 crore to Rs 617 crore.

The whistle blower suggested that the entire state irrigation policy be reviewed with more emphasis on smaller dams rather than larger ones. “In the last 50 years, we built big dams, canals and huge distributary network. But the results are very poor,” he said, adding that the state failed to achieve the irrigation potential with these projects. “If these projects are reviewed, their complete efficiency would not be more than 15%,” he said. “The state has suffered immense loss because of the ruthless ambition of politicians, engineers and contractors.”

Given six months for the probe, the SIT will end its term in June.

The SIT is headed by water management expert Madhav Chitale and has three former bureaucrats as its members

Its terms of reference include reasons for lesser irrigated area, cost escalations and delay in execution of the projects

It will also see if procedures were followed for cost hikes

The government has asked the SIT to recommend measures to finish projects within deadlines

No comments:

Post a Comment