The announcement of the scope of probe in the irrigation scam by the special investigation team (SIT) and three other members late on Monday night has been disapproved by the opposition and activists alike.
The state government late on Monday night issued terms of reference and the appointment of three additional members to assist water expert Madhav Chitale to probe the irrigation scam, that the opposition claims amounts to Rs70,000 crore.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that had called for a SIT in the multi-crore scam, calls it as an eyewash. The party said that the three members appointed to help water expert Madhav Chitale —former irrigation secretary VM Ranade, retired agriculture commissioner Krishna Lavekar and former additional chief secretary AKD Jadhav — were not equipped to investigate the scam from angles of criminal conspiracy or corruption charges.
Jadhav has been ACS for home as well as finance and is regarded as an water economic expert. He is currently a member of the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA). Lavekar has been included for his agriculture expertise. He is currently serving as director of the state institute for rural development.
“We do not accept this probe. It is SIT only in name, but does not have any investigative powers,” said BJP legislator Devendra Fadnavis.
On paper, the government has not shied away from asking the SIT to pinpoint responsibility for irregularities and suggest appropriate action. It has also asked the SIT to probe revised administrative approvals for projects where costs were hiked and examine change of scope of work. However, it has not asked the committee to directly investigate role of irrigation engineers, officials and concerned politicians in cost escalations of tenders, violation of government norms, etc.
Water resources experts and activists are also not convinced. “This SIT is unlikely to shed any light on role of politicians, who are facing allegations —deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and water resources minister Sunil Tatkare,” said Pradeep Purandare, retired associate professor of Water and Land Management Institute (WALMI), that trains irrigation engineers.
The committee has been given six months to submit its report and it will be headquartered at WALMI in Aurangabad.