Responding to Union minister Nitin Gadkari’s statement last week that Maharashtra had allocated an inadequate Rs 7,000 crore for irrigation, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar on Sunday said the government was spending more Rs 12,000 crore on irrigation projects.
Talking to The Indian Express, Mungantiwar said, “If we consider the budgetary provisions made in multiple departments related to irrigation projects, the total amount would go beyond Rs 12,000 crore. It would be incorrect to allege that the government has been found lacking in providing funds for irrigation works in Maharashtra.”
Gadkari, during the Express Adda held in Mumbai last week, had expressed disappointment over the ‘meagre allocation of Rs 7,000 crore’ for irrigation projects. “Telengana, which is just one third the size of Maharashtra, has allocated Rs 25,000 crore for irrigation works,” he had said.
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The Union minister had recommended that the state give higher priority to irrigation, specially to check dams, which are effective at water conservation. Gadkari reiterated these views again at Nagpur on Saturday, indicating he had also sought a meeting with water resources minister Uma Bharati.
Gadkari’s pro-active stand in state affairs has raised eyebrows in some quarters, specially at a time when the Maharashtra government has already held four meetings with Uma Bharati. Bharati and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had in March visited North Maharashtra’s biggest Tapi River water recharge project, for which the Centre promised to help raise Rs 4,000 crore.
Mungantiwar said, “When I made the budget, there were several aspects that had to be considered. Mere allocation of funds would not serve the purpose if aspects such as environmental clearance and land for the projects were not looked into. The state government has adopted a practical approach with a definite timeline for every project. What Gadkariji is considering is just one aspect of the funds.”
The state minister also said that Gadkari had overlooked the 1.33 lakh jalyukta shivars works across 6,200 villages, worth Rs 1,600 crore.
“Apart from Rs 7,800 crore for 28 irrigation projects, we have set aside Rs 1,600 crore for Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan and Rs 2,078 crore for seven schemes being worked on along with the Centre. Then we have Rs 2,500 crore for Mukhya Mantri Peyjal Abhiyan (CM Drinking Water Scheme). There are funds sanctioned for farm ponds, for which Rs 50,000 per pond is being provided to every applicant.”
According to Mungantiwar, last year too, budgetary provisions were made for 38 irrigation projects. “Unlike in the past, we are not holding back funds. The entire money has been released,” he said. Moreover, the government has empahsised that it is willing to go for higher borrowings to meet the challenges in the irrigation sector, he said. “So, I don’t see any problem ahead,” the minister stated.