The Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government has approved cost escalation for the Gosikhurd irrigation project, which has been under anti-corruption bureau’s (ACB) scanner for alleged irregularities, to Rs18,494 crore, almost 50 times its initial cost of Rs372.22 crore in 1983.
Almost 33 years after it was sanctioned, the irrigation project, one of the biggest in the country, is likely to be completed by 2019, the government said. It has remained incomplete owing to alleged mismanagement and corruption.
The state government’s cost escalation, a third revised administrative approval, by Rs12,535 from Rs5,659 crore in 2008 during the then Congress-NCP government, comes in the wake of two FIRs filed by the ACB over alleged wrongdoings in the project.
Several politically influential irrigation contractors got contracts in the Vidarbha irrigation project. These contractors won a big chunk of tenders that were awarded between 2006-07 and 2009-10 under the erstwhile Congress-NCP government, which was in the dock over the alleged irregularities in the irrigation contracts.
The Centre will fund 90% of the project owing to its ‘national’ status while the rest of the share will be borne by the state government.
Interestingly, before forming the government in 2014, the BJP was at the forefront in opposing revised administrative approvals. When asked, state water resources minister Girish Mahajan said the government had no choice but to give fresh approval to complete the project.
“More delays will escalate the project cost. We have already invested crores in the project and hence can’t leave it incomplete,” he said.
He admitted that the cost of project has gone up beyond imagination.
Now, the fresh revised administrative approval will be sent to the Central Water Commission for scrutiny. Once approved, the Centre will release its share of amount. The Gosikhurd project was supposed to irrigate about 2.50 lakh hectares, of which, it had achieved a potential of 34,000 hectares.