The Bombay high court on Monday directed the state government to reconstitute an expert committee it proposes to appoint for examining two of its ambitious schemes – Jalyukta Shivar and river rejuvenation aimed at making Maharashtra drought-free.
“Appointing the expert committee comprising only of the serving state officials will not be appropriate considering very objective of the constituting the committee,” said the division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Anuja Prabhudessai referring to the fact that the serving government officials will not be able to express independent and frank opinion about implementation of the schemes. “It will be appropriate if majority of experts are independent and are not in the service of the state,” they added.
The directive came after government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani presented to the bench composition of the proposed expert committee, which comprised primarily the serving State officials. Acting on a public interest litigation filed by Hiralal Desarda, professor of Economics associated with Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics on December 22, the court had directed the state government to constitute the committee to examine the contentions raised by the petitioner.
Desarda has contended that the drought faced by most parts of Maharashtra cannot be solely blamed on deficient monsoon but is essentially “a failure of water resource management, policies and programs perpetrated by successive governments which is solely responsible for policy-induced water scarcity that is causing havoc to the life of millions of people and which is manifested in the tragic farmer suicides.”
He complained that the BJP-Shiv Sena combine government has introduced Jalyukta Shivar scheme in 2014-15 and is being implemented in 5,000 villages every year, but the scheme is being implemented in completely unscientific and haphazard manner. In his plea, Desarda has also complained about River Rejuvenation Scheme, which was introduced with equal political fanfare and patronage, was also being implemented in complete breach of geo-hydraulic principles. “As a matter of fact, it is leading to ecological destruction and will lead to total destruction of rivarian ecosystem and natural watersheds,” his plea stated.
Noticing that the there was no overall and comprehensive policy decision taken by the State before starting implementation of the two ambitious schemes, the bench felt that necessity to examine the schemes on the ground that if the petitioner was right, the consequences of implementing the schemes in an unscientific manner might be drastic and devastating.