Maharashtra ‘white paper’ clears irrigation projects

Ajit Pawar

The eagerly anticipated 'white paper' on irrigation in Maharashtra, expected to expose alleged irregularities and fix responsibility, turned out to be a damp squib as it claimed that projects in the state entailed lower costs and contract rates when compared with the adjoining states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat.

The white paper, prepared by the water resources department and presented to the cabinet Thursday, virtually gave a clean chit to the ministry held by the NCP and paves the way for former deputy CM Ajit Pawar to return to the government.

Pawar resigned in September over allegations of irregularities in irrigation projects when he was water resources and finance minister. NCP leaders were quick to demand his return . "We will definitely be asking for Ajit Pawar... to be brought back to the cabinet," NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said.

The report blamed "land acquisition, rehabilitation and problems in acquiring funds" for delays in irrigation projects. The revenue department, a portfolio with the Congress party, is responsible for both these aspects. The report also refuted the economic survey of 2011-12, which said that only 0.1 per cent increased area had been brought under irrigation over the last decade.

The opposition slammed the report. "It is a sham. It seems that Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has come under the influence of the NCP. A man who promotes transparency is now shielding the corrupt," Leader of the Opposition Eknath Khadse said.

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