Explain how cost of irrigation projects went up by 40K-cr: NCP
Oppn party alleges cost escalations were approved to benefit contractors close to BJP leadersmumbai Updated: Dec 29, 2017 00:17 IST
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), whose key state leaders faced allegations of corruption in a multi-crore irrigation scam when part of the previous government, has questioned the Bhartiya Janata Party-led government in Maharashtra over escalation of cost worth Rs40,000 crore to complete 317 irrigation projects in the last three years. Alleging that the escalation was to safeguard the interests of contractors close to the BJP, the NCP asked chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to explain to the people the massive rise in the cost.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik on Thursday said the government has given revised administrative approval (RAA) to 317 ongoing projects in the last three years, when the original cost was much less. RAA is given for escalation in cost due to various reasons such as delay in acquisition of land for the project, delay in implementation of the project, etc. Malik said that the government projects had also failed to get assistance from the central government due to their “dubious design.”
“The government had sought 60% funding from the Centre under Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme for the irrigation projects costing Rs20,000 crore as agreed upon through a memorandum of understanding (between state and central governments) in 2011. The Centre refused to fund the projects as their cost escalated by Rs12,000 crore. The state government had to borrow from the NABARD to fund the projects. Besides them, with the addition of a few other projects, the cost escalations amounted to Rs40,000 crore,” he added.
Malik said when chief minister Fadnavis was in Opposition, the BJP leader had levelled allegations of corruption to the tune of Rs70,000 crore in irrigation projects that saw cost escalation. “We spent Rs46,000 crore in 53 years of our rule on irrigation projects in Maharashtra. The BJP and Opposition alleged corruption worth Rs70,000 crore. Now the question that arises is, does the permission for cost escalation given under RAA lead to similar corruption? We suspect that the RAAs were given to ensure windfall to the contractors close to BJP leaders and those who are into the business of irrigation contracts,” he said while addressing a press conference.
Water resources minister Girish Mahajan called the allegations “baseless” and said the government was ready for any scrutiny. “The RAA given to 317 projects was given because of the inefficiency and corruption by the Congress-led government. Had we not given the RAA to the pending projects, farmers would have been deprived of water for farming. The approvals were given only after being passed by four committees appointed at various levels. I dare the NCP to appoint experts such as Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare from their party to verify the approvals and prove any wrongdoing. Nawab Malik understands nothing of technicalities in irrigation projects and hence he is levelling such allegations,” Mahajan told HT.