Special Investigation Team chief Madhav Chitale Saturday said his 1,300-page report on multi-crore irrigation scam did not name Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar or Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare for any wrongdoing.
Speaking to The Indian Express, he said: “My report has concluded that one of the significant aspects that led to the cost escalation of projects in the irrigation sector was due to 40 per cent inflation; and another 35 to 40 per cent due to design changes undertaken in almost every project after the work had already begun.” He added: “I have submitted the report to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and waiting for him to take the process further. My work is over.”
Chitale said he was alarmed by the casual manner in which designs were being altered while retaining the same identity of the project. “There was no question of mentioning the name of any minister or bureaucrat for the wrongdoings in irrigation sector as it was not permissible under the given guidelines. At the very beginning, it was made clear that findings will be very impersonal. The objective of the committee was never to engage in fault finding of any individual (politicians or bureaucrats) but rather larger concerns related to the systemic lapses that resulted in the cost overruns and allowed manipulation of rules,” said Chitale.
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He said a list of lapses had been highlighted project wise, adding: “The report has touched upon the shoddy work undertaken in some projects in Vidarbha and Marathwada.” However, he stressed: “The report has painstakingly attempted detailed analysis in each aspects to conclude that effective management is lacking in the irrigation sector. And it certainly requires major modifications to remove the shortcomings, which resulted in delaying the projects and increasing the irrigation potential in state.”
The decision to bring a major policy change in irrigation ministry would have to be taken by government, he added. The findings of the report, which have been kept under wraps, have come as a major relief to Ajit Pawar. “The irrigation scam was a devious campaign undertaken by the Opposition to tarnish my image. Now they stand exposed,” he said.
State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis said: “The battle is not over as yet as we will challenge the findings in court. It was evident from the beginning that Chavan was bowing to NCP’s pressure to give a clean chit to Ajit Pawar.” He added: “It is a betrayal of the people’s trust in the government as it has misused the SIT for a cover-up operation.”
Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde said: “We will order a fresh probe against Ajit Pawar if voted to power.” The report also fails to quantify the magnitude of corruption. The word corruption finds no mention in the report even as SIT’s very purpose was to ascertain and explain the Rs 70,000-crore spend in the irrigation sector by the government in the last ten years. Asked if they have proved charges of corruption, Chitale said: “That was not the brief.”