Three days after the Maharashtra government produced a white paper giving a virtual clean chit to the irrigation department, Aam Admi Party founder Arvind Kejriwal released a ‘black paper’ highlighting the state’s modus operandi in approving 15 specific projects allegedly violating Acts and regulations, and diversion of water for SEZs and power projects. It also hinted at the spending on irrigation projects in the state in the last 10 years having been more than the stated Rs 70,000 crore.
Choosing Roha in Raigad district, about 110 km from Mumbai for the first rally of his nascent Aam Admi Party, Kejriwal’s ‘black paper’ titled ‘DAMned by the Irrigation Scam’, demanded the resignation of Water Resources minister Sunil Tatkare, a SIT probe into the alleged scam, halting of irrigation projects where violations have been pointed out, blacklisting of contractors and punitive action against government officials and ministers responsible.
“The white paper was a white wash, purely done to give a clean chit to Ajit Pawar (former deputy chief minister). Pawar supporters want him back,” Kejriwal told the gathering. The 58-page black paper claims illegal diversion of at least 398.87 million cubic metres of water a year from irrigation to thermal power plants in Vidarbha between 2003 and 2011. “This water could irrigate approximately 79,774 hectares,” it said.
The black paper claimed that despite Maharashtra having the highest number of large dams, irrigated area has not risen compared to other states. As per the Central Water Commission, the net irrigated area dropped from 3,249 hectares to 3,181 hectares between 2000 and 2008. In Madhya Pradesh, it has risen 55.21 per cent, Gujarat 25.73 per cent and Orissa 61.77 per cent in the same period, it stated.
It further claimed that cost per hectare for bringing land under irrigation in Maharashtra is the highest in the country at Rs 21.67 lakh per hectare against Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh per hectare mandated by CWC.
It speaks of hasty clearances, orders issued without department secretary’s signatures, no budgetary provisions for projects, no statutory clearances, tenders floated to benefit a select few and tenders