The state government gave a clean chit to Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar in the alleged multi-crore irrigation scam on Friday, when it tabled the report of the Madhav Chitale committee in the state Assembly.
It, however, promised action against the officials and engineers found responsible for the financial and administrative lapses in irrigation projects across Maharashtra.
The 1,300-page report was tabled along with Action Taken Report by Minister for Water Resources Sunil Tatkare late evening. A 31-page executive summary report on the Chitale committee was also presented by the government.
While the Chitale committee report clearly states that members and chairman of the governing council of the Irrigation Development Corporation (IDC) should be held responsible for the financial irregularities and violation of rules in irrigation projects, the government has dropped the panel’s recommendation for action, both in its executive summary as well as ATR.
Although the panel has not named any politician, chairman of the IDC’s governing council during the relevant period was Ajit Pawar, who was water resources minister between 1999 and 2009. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was not present in the Assembly when the report was tabled.
At the outset, the state government has accepted 40 out of the total 42 recommendations made by Madhav Chitale, a water management expert, on major reforms required in the irrigation sector.
Interestingly, Chitale report’s thrust on the need for further investigation through competent authority for violations of norms while awarding tenders and contractors work and mobilisation of advance before approving the project has been overlooked. The panel had highlighted in its report several violations related to financial aspects in irrigation projects, but said these could not be probed as it did not come under its terms of references. It had recommended that the government should probe these aspects.
While tabling the report, Tatkare said the irrigation potential in the state had risen by 5.40 per cent in the last 10 years. The minister said, “The question of dragging Ajit Pawar does not arise as in all the irrigation projects assessed by Chitale committee, there are documents to establish that the required guidelines were adhered to by the department.” However, state BJP president and MLA Devendra Fadnavis hit out at the government, saying it had shown total disregard for the Chitale report.