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Govt sets up four-member body to probe ‘irregularities’ in Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan

The scheme was the flagship project of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in order to make Maharashtra drought-free.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai | December 2, 2020 3:16:29 am
The Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray decided to order an open inquiry into the project. (Representational Image)

The state government on Tuesday constituted a four-member committee to investigate into alleged irregularities in the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan (JSA). The scheme was the flagship project of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in order to make Maharashtra drought-free.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray decided to order an open inquiry into the project following a CAG report, which pointed to irregularities and lack of transparency in the project carried out between 2014 and 2019.

The state government resolution (GR) issued on Tuesday stated, “A four member committee led by retired deputy chief secretary Vijay Kumar has been appointed to investigate the JSA. Other members in the committee include a serving additional police commissioner, Anti-Corruption Bureau, chief executive engineer, water resources department, and director, state water commission.”

The committee will identify villages to facilitate thorough investigation. The detailed report after the investigation will have to be submitted to the government within six months. The open inquiry will look into all aspects of violations, including financial bungling, substandard work and cost escalations in the water conservation projects.

In October, the cabinet took a formal decision to probe the JSA. In September, a CAG report exposed shortcomings in the JSA. The report said, “Despite spending Rs 9633.75 crore in JSA, it had little impact in achieving water neutrality and increasing ground water level.” Another objection raised by CAG was “lack of transparency” in carrying out the project. It raised questions on its execution and monitoring.

The JSA was an ambitious project, which was implemented across drought-hit villages in Maharashtra. It was launched in December 2014. Till 2019, under JSA, 22,586 villages were covered. Total expenditure incurred on 6.41 lakh works was Rs 9633.75 crore. These are the facts that the CAG also acknowledged in its report.

The CAG findings were based on a sample study. It randomly selected 120 villages. In 80 villages, the study showed water storage created was not sufficient to meet requirements as was expected.

The BJP termed the decision by the MVA as a “malicious” move. Chief spokesperson of the BJP Keshav Upadhye said, “The probe is an insult to public movement on water conservation. The JSA was a movement undertaken through huge public participation to end drought in Maharashtra.”

He also said it was evident that the government wanted to undermine the good work done under the Fadnavis government. More shocking is the decision to probe the good work, which was owned and shouldered by villagers to tackle water crisis, he added.

The Congress, however, has welcomed the investigation. Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “In the past, we had often raised scam in the JSA. But it was overlooked. Our stand was vindicated when CAG report established wrongdoings. The government has done right to expose the scam.”

However, BJP leaders argued it was unfair to dismiss the entire project. Out of 6.41 lakh works, CAG report shortlisted only 120 samples. Of these, in 83 works, objections were raised.

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