State needs an irrigation roadmap, not a row

Projects stalled amid controversy, Rs 80,000 crore required to complete them

The tussle over the alleged irrigation scam may have opened up a front for the opposition to attack the government but a row would not serve to get irrigation projects stalled across Maharashtra back on track. On the other hand, it has led to further hurt, with disputes surfacing within the Democratic Front government. The irrigation department headed by Congress minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil is differing with the water resources department headed by NCP's Sunil Tatkare, which had prepared a white paper and each is trying to score over the other.

The controversy has also brought to halt decision-making in irrigation projects at the local level, with officials developing cold feet.

Amid all this, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar have an uphill task getting the ongoing projects, which require Rs 80,000 crore, completed. The next state budget will hardly meet an eighth of this amount, as sources in the finance department indicate that allocation in the annual state budget for 2013-14 will be Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 12,000 crore."

The white paper, too, does not address the problem of stalled projects. There is no clear roadmap for completing the projects.

Instead of addressing this crucial issue, the ruling allies are trying to score brownie points. How else would one explain the agriculture department's letter to the CM dismissing the water resources department claim that there has been an increase of 5.17% in irrigation in the last ten years in the state.

In the letter, Vikhe-Patil has stated, "Our estimate is that irrigation potential in a decade has increased by a mere 0.1%." Tatkare, whose department was given the task of preparing the white paper, is meanwhile engaged in a damage control exercise.

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