With elections round the corner,Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has begun cosying up to Congress ally Nationalist Congress Party.
On Wednesday,Chavan said the special investigation team (SIT) constituted to probe the multi-crore irrigation scam in Maharashtra was not really intended to act against those guilty of corruption. He added: It is more to identify mistakes committed in the past so that these are not repeated in future. It is not so much to probe corruption allegations,but to identify technical discrepancies.
The SIT,which is headed by water resources expert Madhav Chitale,was appointed last December in the light of the public outrage over rampant corruption in irrigation projects. Corruption allegations were raised against Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare among others in the irrigation scam.
Since its inception,the opposition has been claiming that the SIT had not been empowered to act on corruption allegations.
Chavan,however,said if the panel reported evidence of corruption,the government could consider initiating further inquiries against those responsible.
The softening of his stand also follows approvals to certain policy decisions and proposals being pushed by the NCP. Arbitrary increase in the cost of irrigation projects have meant that the department has liabilities worth Rs 70,000 crore. While Chavan had previously said no new irrigation projects should be taken up,he appears to have bowed to political pressure on this front too.
Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan had earlier imposed a blanket ban on new irrigation projects. The NCP-controlled irrigation department first sought removal of the rider for minor projects spread over 600 hectares to supply additional water to the Marathwada belt. Following this,a demand to extend the same rationale to other parts of the state was raised in the Cabinet meeting.
Though Chavan said he was yet to discuss the issue with the governor,he indicated willingness to let decisions on fund distribution be taken at the regional level.
He,however,reiterated his stand that a lot of mistakes while planning dam projects had been made in the past owing to pressure from politicians,contractors or local public. Chavan also hinted at drawing up a comprehensive land acquisition policy for dam projects.
Indicating that taking up a big dam project would be difficult in the near future,Chavan said his priority would be to take up water conservation projects on a large scale. The state government has met success with water conservation initiatives in drought-hit belts this year. Chavan also said the government was working on a Rs 60,000-crore plan to make the state drought-proof.
The CM said he would also look into the allegations that the government had sat on an inquiry sought into corruption in projects taken up by the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation.