THE STATE government is yet to enforce 22 major recommendations made by the Madhav Chitale committee, which was constituted to investigate the multi-crore corruption in the irrigation sector during the Congress-NCP regime. Of the total 42 recommendations, which were adopted by the Devendra Fadnavis government, 20 have been implemented.
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The committee report mandates in cases where perennial crops like sugarcane are part of major projects. The report suggests that canals in their area should be ascertained by remote sensing and water charges levied accordingly. This was one of the key aspects to avoid rampant misuse and diversion of dam water for sugarcane cultivation leading to the shortage of water — both non-cultivation and drinking water. It remains unimplemented. The issue is under process with the department.
To ensure regional balance in agriculture practices, the committee recommended “in-depth assessment of why water use is less in Amravati, Konkan and Marathwada”. It called for undertaking quick measures to address the problems.
The unimplemented recommendations include: cities and industries should treat their sewage and effluent to 100 per cent in order to reduce non-irrigation water demand. Water charges should be levied on wells which have not been handed over to Water Users Association (WUA).
To tackle the problems of project cost escalation, the report suggests that the actual cost of the projects (original plus escalation) should be considered as administrative approval cost and if cost of the project exceeds 12 per cent of this, only then it should be considered for revised administrative approval (RAA). In RAA, as per the report, while finding the benefit ratio, the expenses should be modified as per the escalation. The water resources department should have its own code of conduct, rule book and it should publish escalation rates every year. Investment made for non-irrigation use should be clearly indicated, the report suggests.
A senior officer in the ministry of water resources said, “The state government led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has accorded top priority to the irrigation reforms. In the last two years, there have been several reviews to charter the progress made on the Chitale committee recommendations. Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan has given clear directives to the department to enforce all the 42 recommendations.” However, he indicated that some aspects have remained on the shelf because of administrative problems.
He, however, added, “In two years we have managed to strictly implement 20 recommendations which is a record in terms of fast-track execution of policy decisions.”
Following the multi-crore irrigation scam during the erstwhile Congress-NCP government, the Chitale committee was set up in 2012 to provide suggestions in irrigation reforms. The committee submitted its report in 2014.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Chitale said, “The role of the commission was confined till submission of the report. Now, it is for the government to take it forward.” But I believe the government is keen on irrigation reforms. I can’t comment on the status of the progress, he added.
The list of 20 recommendations that have been enforced includes: Not to declare irrigation potential created unless distribution systems are in place and ascertained. Proper account of irrigated area should be kept with the agriculture commissioner. The decision to tackle the extreme delay on part of the revenue and agriculture departments in collating irrigated area. Use of remote sensing to find actual siltation of major, medium and minor irrigation projects. The methods for collecting data for economic survey report should be improved. Fraudulent use of non-irrigation water should be checked and detailed audit published every year.