The Bombay high court on Thursday directed the state government to file an affidavit in reply to a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking CBI investigations into some of the irrigation projects undertaken in the Konkan region that have come under the scanner for corruption charges.
Advocate general Darius Khambata informed the court that the state government is preparing a white paper on all irrigation projects across Maharashtra and the paper is expected to be prepared within 3 or 4 weeks. Subsequently, the division bench of justice AM Khanwilkar and justice Mridula Bhatkar granted the government time till December 18 to file the affidavit in response to the PIL filed by Praveen Wategaonkar.
The counsel for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), K Sudhakar said that the agency was willing to take up the investigation if ordered by the court.
Wategaonkar’s PIL states that Maharashtra has spent about Rs70,000 crore on developing irrigation facilities between 2001 and 2010, but the irrigation potential of the state has only gone up by 0.01% (from 17.8% in 2001 to 17.9% in 2010) in a decade.
“This huge expenditure without a significant increase in the total irrigated area needs to be examined. Acts of omission and commission on the part of public servants involved need to be investigated,” states the PIL.
Wategaonkar highlighted the purported mismanagement of irrigation schemes executed by the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC) by saying that over a period of 12 years, the corporation spent Rs4,364 crore on 90 projects against the estimated cost of Rs2,567 crore. Of these, only 13 projects have been completed and irrigation potential of only 63,145 hectares, compared to the objective of 2.57 lakh hectares was achieved.
The PIL alleged this was a case of massive corruption allegedly involving successive water resources ministers, bureaucrats across levels and contractors.
* The work at Jamda medium project was stopped after steep opposition from project affected persons. But KIDC did not deposit Rs8.25 crore as compensation to project affected persons but paid idle charges of Rs26.33 crore to contractors.
* Nardave project: work has been held up since October 2007 for want of Forests Clearance for which KIDC did not pay Rs2.40 crore, but paid idle charges of Rs7.48 crore to the contractor.
* An investment of Rs. 79.89 crore was made on a minor irrigation project at Shirshinge, but been held up for the want of payment of Rs14.46 crore towards forest clearance.