Irrigation white paper will be a whitewash: BJP

Stating that the white paper on irrigation promised by the Maharashtra government will be no more than a whitewash, state BJP asked for the inclusion of a number of points, issues and facts while the white paper is being drafted. Leader of Opposition in the state legislative council Vinod Tawde also demanded that instead of asking irrigation department officials to prepare the white paper, the job should be entrusted to a three-member committee consisting of principal secretary-level IAS officials from other departments.

"Former deputy CM Ajit Pawar and Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare have been trying to play down the poor increase in Maharashtra's irrigation capacity by stressing that water from projects is being increasingly diverted to urban areas and industries. Then why does Gujarat manage a 45.3 per cent increase in irrigation capacity while Tamil Nadu and Punjab have managed 58.3 per cent and 97.6 per cent respectively? Haven't cities grown in these states too?" he asked.

Arguing that most officials in the irrigation department are involved in the 'mega scam', Tawde asked for a committee of officials from other departments to carry out this work. The white paper has been demanded by the Opposition repeatedly, but the state government has failed to produce the same. After the recent expose of alleged corruption within the department and the resignation of Ajit Pawar, the state government has promised that the white paper will be presented in the upcoming Nagpur session of the Assembly.

"We have drawn up a list of 35-plus pointed questions that need to be addressed in this white paper, failing which it will be nothing but a white wash. The central water commission has stated that Rs 2 lakh is required to bring one hectare of land under irrigation. In Maharashtra alone, this cost has crossed Rs 6 lakh. We want specific reasons for such a stark difference. Similarly, the cost to provide one lakh cubic metre of water has risen from Rs 1.53 crore in 2008-09 to Rs 7.11 crore in 2010-11. We want answers and explanations," said Tawde.

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