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Does Madhav Chitale report nails Ajit Pawar in the Rs 20,000 crore irrigation scam?

Saturday, 14 June 2014 - 12:05pm IST | Agency: dna

BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis reveals parts of report; govt assures it will be tabled before the legislature on Saturday

Devendra Fadnavis, the state Bharatiya Janata Party chief, on Friday revealed parts of the Chitale report on the irrigation scam in Maharashtra which suggest that the inquiry committee has pinned the blame for irregularities on certain officials and the minister for approving cost overruns.

Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar was the water resources minister and therefore the head of various irrigation corporations when contracts worth over Rs20,000 crore were allegedly awarded arbitrarily.

The matter was investigated by the media in 2012 after the economic survey noted that the irrigation area in the state had increased by just 0.1 per cent to 17.9 per cent between 2001 and 2010 despite Rs70,000 crore being spent on irrigation projects.

After these reports were published, Pawar resigned as minister in September 2012, but returned to the government in two months after the government set up an inquiry under the chairmanship of water expert Madhav Chitale.

The government subsequently published a white paper on the matter stating that the irrigated area had risen by 5.17 per cent.

On Friday, Fadnavis said in the state legislative assembly, the Chitale report mentioned that though the irrigation corporations had added 2.43 lakh hectares to the irrigated area, an area of 2.31 lakh hectare shown in these figures did not translate into actual irrigation.

After Fadnavis raised the issue, water resources minister Sunil Tatkare said the government would table the report along with the action taken report on Saturday, the last day of the budget session.

The Chitale report was submitted to the government in March this year.

According to the information available, the report notes that the responsibility also fell on the members and the chairman (water resources minister) of the irrigation corporations who attended the governing body meetings where approvals were granted, despite the same being brought to their notice. It has also recommended that the government take a decision against those responsible.

The committee has said that though it came across irregularities like misuse of the clause to take up linked works without calling for tenders, the payment of mobilisation advance, including non-construction heads like vehicles and computers in the tenders for construction, these did not fit into its terms of reference. Tenders were also awarded without environment and forest clearances and it took around five years to get these sanctions.

Fadnavis also said that the committee came across suspicious transactions granting revised acceptance and change in the scope of projects.

The committee also stated that it had received memorandums from non-governmental sources that contained some of these cases and it recommended investigation of issues like increasing the scope of the tenders after they were accepted.

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