Apart from the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party, the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance, too, will have to come up with some explanations on the statistics of the lift irrigation projects mentioned in the white paper.
There are 55 lift irrigation projects in the state, of which some have been completed. Almost 50% of those that have come under the scanner in the report were commissioned during the Sena-BJP rule from 1980 to 2009.
The report shows that 25 of the 55 lift irrigation projects costing approximately Rs. 5,188 crore were sanctioned and commissioned between 1995 and 1999.
Of these, eight lift irrigation projects commissioned in Jalgaon under the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation were completed between 1996 and 1999. Eknath Khadse, the current BJP leader of Opposition in the Assembly who hails from Jalgaon, headed both the finance and water resources portfolio during this period.
In his letter to the government, whistleblower and chief engineer in the water resources department Vijay Pandhare had pointed out that 99% of the lift irrigation schemes are currently dysfunctional.
“There have been thousands of lift irrigation schemes in the state. But, 99% of them are non-functional. In fact, water has never passed through 90% of the schemes,” Pandhare’s letter had alleged.
He had also alleged that these schemes were undertaken only to benefit contractors and politicians.
The lift irrigation schemes were undertaken as part of the Sena-BJP’s agenda of Tanker Mukt Maharashtra (tanker-free Maharashtra) in the 1995 election campaign.
The alliance then formed the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC) to finance irrigation projects in the rainshadow regions of western Maharashtra, which was always dominated by the Congress. About the lift irrigation schemes, Khadse said, “If those making allegations have any proof, they should come out with it. This is a tactic of pushing the blame on us, when the entire onus lies on them.”