To avoid a re-run of the multi crore irrigation scam and to keep the existing contractor cartel at bay, the state government is looking at completing one of the biggest irrigation projects in the country, Gosikhurd through a public sector company, tagged as `Navratna company’ by the Government of India. Last week the state government decided to scrap 81 tenders of Gosikhurd project – 94 tainted tenders in all – that were facing police probe or had been indicted for irregularities.
If this proposal by the water resources department goes through it will be a first for the Maharashtra government and could set an important precedent to break the contractor-official nexus in all public contracts especially in irrigation and roads sector.
``So far in irrigation projects the modus operandi has been to split a big project into several small tenders and then distribute this pie among favoured contractors. If we give the remainder of the Gosikhurd project to say National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited (NBBC), we can be assured of quality and time deadlines. More importantly, we will circumvent any possibility of fudging of tenders, bias etc,’’ said a senior official on condition of anonymity.
He added that if this pilot project works, the government could in the future consider giving more irrigation contracts to public sector companies. The water resources department proposal is likely to be tabled in the cabinet next week and currently is being circulated for opinion from other departments including finance.
The state cabinet last week had also approved a third cost escalation for Gosikhurd, a project that has been languishing for the last three decades. The project cost has been hiked by more than 50 times from Rs 372 crore in 1982 to Rs 18,494 crore now. Officials told HT that work worth Rs 9,500 crore of the project had already been completed and the main dam structure was almost ready. The balance civilian construction work is worth Rs 6,000 crore while acquisition and rehabilitation cost comes to around Rs 3,000 core (85 villages have been displaced by this project).
The decision to keep contractors at bay by taking away Rs 6,000 crore of works could upset many politically influential contractors, who now find their initial contracts cancelled and may not get a chance to win new bids.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is keen on completing this project by 2019 and as such its development is being tracked by the Chief Minister’s war room on infrastructure. As a national project 90 per cent of the project’s funds will come from the Centre. Gosikhurd project has the potential to create irrigation potential of 2.50 lakh hectares in three districts of Nagpur, Chandrapur and Bhandara of Vidarbha, facing an agrarian crisis.