Maharashtra appoints 4-member panel to initiate probe into Jalyukt Shivar works undertaken by Devendra Fadnavis govt
Six weeks after state cabinet decided to probe the alleged irregularities in Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan (JSA), a flagship water conservation project by the previous Devendra Fadnavis regime, the Maharashra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has appointed a four-member panel to conduct an open investigation. The committee has been given six months to review the cases mentioned in Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report, examine the complaints received by the government and decide if there is need of an open inquiry into those complaints. The panel will have to submit the progress report about the probe in the cases handed over to it every month. The departments concerned have been directed to commence inquiry recommended by the probe panel immediately.
The cabinet in its meeting on October 14 had decided to conduct the probe into the alleged irregularities in the Rs9,634 crore scheme, which was implemented in 22,589 villages between December 2014 and March this year. The CAG found holes after inspecting 1,128 works allotted under the scheme failed to achieve its aim. The report was tabled in the state legislature on September 8. The current government, too, had received more than 600 complaints about the irregularities and corruption related to the scheme, following which the state decided to initiate the probe.
According to the government resolution issued on Tuesday, the probe panel will be headed by retired additional chief secretary Bijay Kumar, and will comprise additional director general of anti-corruption bureau (ACB); chief engineer of water resources department Sanjay Belsare and director of soil conservation and watershed management.
In its 3-point terms of reference (or scope of inquiry), the panel has been directed to examine 1,128 works examined by CAG in 120 villages in two districts and decide in how many of them an open probe is required and how many works can be handed over for administrative action or divisional inquiry. The panel has also been directed to examine 600 complaints received by the government and decide how many of them required an open probe and which of them need administrative action or divisional inquiry. It has also been told to look into other works undertaken under JSA and decide whether any of them require open, divisional inquiry or administrative action.
The CAG report tabled in the state legislature on September 8 slammed the Fadnavis government for its failure in implementation of JSA, envisaged to make villages in Maharashtra drought-free. Besides the deficiencies in planning and lack of provision of adequate funds for maintenance of works, JSA failed to achieve water neutrality in drought-prone villages and increase the ground-water level as intended, CAG’s report stated. Despite spending ₹9,634 crore, drought-hit areas ended up deploying more tankers than in the past, the report said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has termed the probe an insult to the people’s movement under which the JSA was implemented.
“The most inefficient MVA government has initiated another probe but only truth will come out of it. In the first place, CAG had examined only 1,128 of total 6.42 lakh works allotted under the drive. This means the remaining 99.83% works were not examined. The report has not found any scam or corruption, while on the contrary it has accepted the fact that many villages became tanker-free and it helped farmers to take second crop,” said BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye.
He added that when CAG suggested a course correction, the MVA government scrapped the entire scheme out of vendetta. Upadhye said the probe will find nothing, similar to the report by the committee constituted to find out the alternative land for the Metro car shed at Aarey Colony.
The Congress has welcomed the probe and said that the BJP affiliated contractors benefited from the project. Maharashtra Congress’s general secretary and spokesperson Sachin Sawant said that he had exposed the failure of the project way back in 2018. Sawant, citing a report by Groundwater Survey and Development Agency, had said that number of tankers increased in the villages where the project was implemented. The report had also stated that the groundwater level dipped after implementation of the project.