SIT probe still underway into Fadnavis’s flagship water scheme, says Maharashtra govt.
Countering the BJP claims of a ‘clean chit’ being given to the Jalyukt Shivar scheme — a flagship project of the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis-led government — the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government clarified that investigations by the special investigation team (SIT) into alleged irregularities in the project were still on.
The multi-crore drought-proofing scheme, which was the former Chief Minister’s pet project, had been criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its report which was tabled in the State Legislature in September last year.
After a section of the media reported on Wednesday that the MVA had allegedly given ‘a clean chit’ to the project, the administration issued a clarification which said there was no question of the government giving a clean chit to the Jalyukt Shivar project as long as the SIT investigation was still on.
The clarification said the Additional Chief Secretary of the Department of Soil and Water Conservation had testified before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday.
“The news carried by a section of press was based on the information submitted by the Secretary at that time. However, the Secretary recorded his testimony on the issues raised by the CAG and these figures have been provided by the implementing agency itself. The chairman of this committee [PAC] is BJP MLA Sudhir Mungantiwar,” said the government clarification.
It further noted that the Secretary had submitted before the PAC that the SIT had said in its report (to the government) that the respective District Collectors had not yet submitted the inquiry reports into the JYS scheme.
Last year, the Jalyukt Shivar project had come under fire from the CAG as well as a number of noted environmental activists and independent fact-finding teams.
The CAG’s report had stated that “despite spending ₹9,633.75 crore, the [Jalyukt] Abhiyaan (mission) had little impact in achieving water neutrality and increasing ground water level”. The report added that there was “lack of transparency” in the execution of works and inadequate monitoring by the State water conservation department.
Mr. Fadnavis, who said that he had heard media reports that the MVA had reportedly given a ‘clean chit’ to the project and had said he was happy that the MVA government had found nothing wrong with the scheme.
“The Bombay High Court had set up an expert committee to study this scheme and the committee had lauded the project. I myself have pointed out that there were around 600 complaints raised during the implementation of this project [from 2014-2019]…but these were a mere 600 of a total 6 lakh works completed. It certainly does not imply that the whole project was rotten,” the former Chief Minister said.
BJP leader and former minister Ashish Shelar, lashed out at the MVA government for casting aspersions on the project, remarking that the alleged ‘clean chit’ had refuted the claims of the MVA leadership who had tried to tarnish the project.
In March 2017, a field study conducted by South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) had observed that indiscriminate digging of farm ponds as part of the Jalyukt Shivar project had accelerated the rate of groundwater extraction and had ticked it off for its “unscientific implementation” and “unsustainability”.
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