Here's why CM is silent on irrigation scam

Criticism is pouring in from all quarters over the white paper on state irrigation projects remaining silent on corruption and steering clear of putting any blame on former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar for delays and cost escalations. This silence of the Congress-led Democratic Front government can be explained by the fact that demands by a number of former and sitting legislators for changes in the original plan of projects resulted in delays and cost escalations.

The white paper, which was made public yesterday, details the causes for delays and rise in project costs over the years. In this light, it would have been a logically inconsistency to pin responsibility for the maladies in the irrigation sector on Pawar, the NCP strongman who resigned from the government in a huff in September following allegations of corruption in several projects.

No black marks! NCP strongman Ajit Pawar and CM Prithviraj Chavan. The white paper on the state irrigation sector that was made public yesterday does not mention corruption and steers clear of putting any blame on Pawar for cost escalations and delays in projects. File Pic

The state water resources department, which is led by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Minister Sunil Tatkare, has revealed the names of the legislators who made the demands for project modifications and also listed the changes they wanted that led to cost escalations. And many of these names are of leaders from the Congress, a fact that might be the prime reason behind Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan refraining from announcing any high-level inquiry.

The NCP, which has been pushed into a corner for allegedly making a mess of the irrigation department, has revealed these names in the 768-page Volume II of the white paper. The first volume of the white paper runs into 113 pages.

Volume II contains a list of 17 big projects, 19 medium projects and 19 lift irrigation schemes that are alleged to have drained the state coffers as most of them involve large-scale delays.

For the delays and cost escalations, the white paper blames land acquisition problems, rehabilitation of the project affected, paucity of funds and time consumed for detailed design and plans of the project, besides changing the scope of the project midway following demands from locals, project-affected people and elected representatives.

For the delays and cost increase, the NCP-led water resources department indirectly blames the Congress-led departments, such as the revenue department that is responsible for land acquisition and relief and rehabilitation for project-affected people.

The white paper seeks to clarify that the prime reason behind cost escalations has been changes made in the scope of a project.

Ujani Project (Solapur)
Approval given on August 20, 1964

Original cost: Rs 40.51 crore

Revised cost: Rs 1,992.78 crore

Status: Incomplete, ten lift irrigation schemes pending

Projected benefits: Irrigation potential of 2.59 lakh hectares of land

Reason for delay/Cost increase: Major changes to original plan that led to widening of scope of project. In 1986, the then CM S B Chavan (Congress) approved a demand by locals that led to inclusion of 282 villages under project and increase in irrigation potential by 1.38 lakh hectares. Length of canals also saw increase by a few kilometres. Project cost rose by Rs 518 crore for these changes, besides other cost escalations like Rs 124 crore for command area development

Kukdi project (Pune)
Approval given in 1966

Original cost: Rs 31.18 crore

Revised cost: Proposal for cost increase is Rs 2,184 crore and has been submitted to the government

Projected benefits: It will cater to needs of parts of Pune, Ahamadnagar and Solapur

Status: Incomplete

Reason for delay/Cost increase: Changes in district scheduled rates (DSR), land acquisition problems, and widening of scope of project following certain demands made by locals and MLAs that would cost Rs 255 crore. In 1986, demands made by local MLA Nandkumar Zawre (Congress) were approved in a meeting chaired by the then minister of state for irrigation Annasaheb Mhaske. In 2004, demands made by the then minister for tribal development Madhukar Pichad and the then energy minister Dilip Walse Patil (both from NCP) also approved. Al this also led to cost escalation.

Warna project (Sangli)
Approval given in 1963-64

Original cost: Rs 31.64 crore

Revised cost: Rs 2,149.95 crore, proposal is awaiting government nod

Status: Incomplete

Reason for delay/Cost increase: Land acquisition problems, DSR issues and expenditure on establishment. Public demand for change in site of the hydro-power project led to increase in cost. In 2006, cost increase of Rs 108 crore followed decision to go for geo synthetic lining for canals taken in a meeting chaired by Shivajirao Deshmukh, chairman of the legislative council. Changes in water distribution system added another Rs 176.82 crore to cost.

Nira Deoghar project (Pune)
Approval given in 1983-84

Original cost: Rs 61.84 crore

Revised cost: Rs 1,334.35 crore (approved in 2009)

Status: Incomplete

Reason for delay/Cost increase: Scope of the project changed when local MLA, ex-minister Anantrao Thopte (Congress) demanded 21-km canal and lift irrigation scheme. Ex-MLA Madanrao Pisal (Congress) and former Dy CM Vijaysinha Mohite Patil (NCP) also demanded benefits of the project for their constituencies, Wai and Malshiras respectively, leading to cost escalation of Rs 123.15 crore and increase in dam length from 1,608 metres to 2,330 metres and height from 46 metres to 58.8 metres.

Urmodi Project (Satara)
Approval given in 1993

Original cost: Rs 212 crore

Revised cost: Rs 1,417 crore

Status: Incomplete

Reason for delay/Cost increase: Scope changed as then Cooperation Minister and local MLA Abhaysinharaje Bhosle (Congress) demanded canal irrigation instead of Kolhapuri-type weirs

Tarali Project (Satara)
Approval given in 1995-96

Original cost: Rs 194.32 crore

Revised cost: Rs 1.57.63 crore

Status: Incomplete

Reason for delay/Cost increase: Scope changed when then chief minister Manohar Joshi of Shiv Sena approved a lift irrigation scheme as a special case, which led to a cost escalation of Rs 110.49 crore

Sina Kolegaon Project (Osmanabad)
Approval given in 1992

Original cost: Rs 70.88 crore

Revised cost: Rs 455.28 crore

Status: Incomplete

Reason for delay/Cost increase: Scope saw an increase of Rs 76 crore when a meeting chaired by then Water Resources minister Ajit Pawar, Minister for Krishna Valley Development Corporation Ramraje Nimbalkar and local MLA Rahul Mote (NCP) approved inclusion of a new lift irrigation scheme.
Change in designs caused cost increase of Rs 106.62 crore

Krishna Koyna Lift Irrigation Scheme (Sangli)
Approval given in 1984

Original cost: Rs 82.43 crore

Revised cost: Rs 3,042 crore

Status: Incomplete

Reason for delay/Cost increase: Cost escalated because of certain demands made by Ministers Dr Patangrao Kadam (Congress), R R Patil and Jayant Patil (both NCP), former MLAs Ajit Ghorpade (Congress), Anil Babar (NCP) and others.

Dr Kadam demanded inclusion of some villages, which led to cost increase of Rs 22.17 crore.

Demands made by R R Patil and Jayant Patil increased cost by Rs 28 crore.

Cost escalation of approximately Rs 48 crore came about due to various demands by the former minister Ajit Ghorpade. He was also part of a demand that was made by then minister Shivajirao Deshmukh, former MLA Umaji Sanmadikar and Minister Laxman Dhoble, which led to cost increase of
Rs 336.73 crore. A demand by Anil Babar resulted in cost increase of Rs 11 crore  

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