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Water expert handpicked by CM Fadnavis quits, questions dept’s ‘lack of will’

In December, Fadnavis, who was reportedly unhappy with the performance of the water resources department, had appointed Mendhegiri, who is seen as a whistleblower in the multi-crore irrigation scam, as an advisor to the Maharashtra government.

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | Published: March 12, 2016 1:33:03 am
water expert, mumbai water expert, irrigation sector, mumbai news Devendra Fadnavis

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s plan to cleanse the corruption-riddled irrigation sector has suffered a big jolt. H T Mendhegiri, an expert who was handpicked by the chief minister for the task, has quit, expressing discontentment with the functioning of the state administration.

In December, Fadnavis, who was reportedly unhappy with the performance of the water resources department, had appointed Mendhegiri, who is seen as a whistleblower in the multi-crore irrigation scam, as an advisor to the Maharashtra government.

Mendhegiri, who had earlier retired from public service as a secretary of the state water resources department, took over the new assignment from January 1. But on March 8, he resigned from the post, complaining that “his role in the government remained undefined” and that he felt “unutilised” in his new role.

Maharashtra water resources minister Girish Mahajan confirmed Mendhegiri’s resignation. He said, “Efforts are being made to resolve the grievances that Mendhegiri has aired and bring him back on board.” Mahajan also said that he has discussed the issue with Fadnavis.

But sources informed The Indian Express that the expert had first declared his intention to move out through a communication to the Chief Minister on March 1, where he had listed specific grievances, including the slow pace of reforms in the irrigation sector.

Fadnavis, when asked, said he hadn’t accepted the resignation. Sources in the government revealed that the CM had offered to fix the issues, but Mendhegiri was now reluctant to rejoin the government.

When The Indian Express contacted Mendhegiri, he said that the “lack of will” in the state administration was among the main reasons behind his resignation. “There is nothing much happening in the irrigation sector. The state administration does not appear to understand what to concentrate on to reform the sector,” Mendhegiri said. “Those who have committed mistakes must be dealt with and the reforms must go hand-in-hand. But neither is being taken up at the right pace,” he said.

The government order appointing Mendhegiri as advisor, issued on December 14, had said that the expert would work on revising of the state’s water policy, evolving an integrated state water plan, chart out a policy to expedite projects in a transparent fashion, amend rules and regulations, strengthen the Maharashtra Water Resource Regulatory Act, and enhance micro irrigation, among other things.

But Mendhegiri on Friday said the water resource department officials were not consulting him over these issues. “I’ve worked on these. But there is just no response from the department. There is no use of being an advisor when you are not even consulted over policy matters,” he said.

Mahajan confirmed that Mendhegiri had expressed displeasure over the treatment meted out to him by authorities in the department.
Sources, meanwhile, said that Mendhegiri had demanded the status of a principal secretary in the government. “I did not want the entitlements. But the status would have given me access to documents and staff for better utilisation of my services as an advisor,” Mendhegiri told the Indian Express.

While the expert said he had the highest regard for Fadnavis, he claimed the administration did not appear too serious about the developmental work.

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