Even as the state government announced a special investigation team (SIT) probe led by water expert Madhav Chitale into the multi-crore irrigation scam, critics and experts have termed the inquiry a farce.
“Chitale has never taken an anti-establishment position. Also, he is not capable of probing into the allegations of corruption and the nexus between contractors and politicians. Ideally, a former judge should have led the team,” said Pradeep Purandare, retired associate professor of water and land management institute that trains irrigation engineers.
He added that the SIT would turn out to be on the lines of yet another technical committee that would eventually defend the government’s position.
“We welcome the SIT but are concerned because it is not monitored by the judiciary. The team is being headed by a person who had made a very exhaustive report on irrigation projects in the 80s. In fact, many of these dams have been commissioned on the basis of the Chitale report. So, how can he be objective towards these projects?” said Anjali Damania, an activist with the Aam Admi Party, who helped expose the irrigation scam using the RTI.
Social activist Medha Patkar also slammed the appointment of Chitale calling him “pro-establishment”. “He has a clean image. But, has he ever gone against the government?”
Indavi Tulpule, a dam-activist, pointed out the SIT was likely to be yet another ‘cost-benefit’ analysis document drawn up by the water resources engineers and officials.
“There are many aspects to the irrigation scam. Unless the SIT has legal experts, social workers, economic offences experts, it will not be able to deal with issues such as criminal conspiracy, corruption, land acquisition and social justice,’’ she said.
Tulpule added, “The problem with Chitale is that he is a water expert who has an old-world view. We need to go beyond the framework of dams to water conservation.”
Anil Kilor, the lawyer representing Jan Manch in its petition in the Nagpur bench of the high court, said: “The committee has been asked to probe the projects taken up after 1995. The report will take several years to get completed and will then be put in cold storage.”