Nullifying allegations that solar pumps were priced unreasonably, the state government has given a go-ahead to the procurement of 10,000 such pumps for farmers in the drought-hit Vidarbha-Marathwada regions.
Senior government officials confirmed that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had cleared the proposal for the procurement. The solar pumps, procured from one company, will cost the state exchequer Rs 530 crore.
The opposition had earlier raised allegations that the government was passing on undue favours to the company. It had alleged that the price of each solar pump being procured was Rs 1-1.5 lakh compared to rates that Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh had paid for similar purchase.
Following this accusation, Fadnavis had in January stayed the purchase, and had directed his officials to study the contract model which Gujarat had employed.
Senior officials also confirmed that the original contract conditions remain unaltered in the latest approval.
Incidentally, while the solar pump scheme was announced by the government with much fanfare, the state opted not to publicise this approval.
State Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule had earlier defended the higher prices arguing that unlike Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, conditions in the state contract had staggered the payment to be made to the contractor in phases.
He has also argued that the state’s contract contains a “more robust” clause regarding the annual service maintainance of the solar pumps.
The opposition had initially sought Bawankule’s resignation in the matter. But it appeared to have toned down its objection on the procurement after a meeting that Bawankule held with opposition leaders during this year’s budget session of the assembly.
The opposition has since been largely silent on the issue. The contract has been awarded to a top Indian multinational company.