White paper needed to identify black sheep in state govt

Not very long ago, during the budget session of the state legislature, a group of Congress MLAs was trying to corner Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan over his ‘indecisiveness and slow pace of working’. Their anger and the way it was being exhibited surprised many. Apparently irked over it, Chavan, said a senior colleague of him, called them in his chamber and told them clearly that he was deputed by party chief Sonia Gandhi and would go back whenever she said so.

“Don’t ask me to do anything, which is not acceptable in terms of rules and law. If you are really interested in overall development, please recommend anything that is adequate,” Chavan reportedly said.

Focussed: Prithviraj Chavan

This incident speaks a lot about the style of working of our Mr clean CM, whose tenure that began in November 2010, is being castigated by his own party men more than the Opposition. And generally speaking, nothing much can be said about the vision and direction of Chavan’s predecessors, who were rather content to spend days in power than offering anything worthwhile to the state.

Be it power, industry, water or irrigation, none of the sectors have witnessed any augmentation in the recent past. And, these days, the state is witnessing a political blame game between the ruling Congress and NCP over irrigation projects — their cost and delay in completion. The CM has announced that his government would soon come out with a white paper on the irrigation sector, a decision that has created uneasiness in NCP.

NCP man, deputy CM Ajit Pawar, who was handling the water resources department for many years, is particularly unhappy with the announcement and it is said both Chavan and he are not ready see eye to eye these days. This has shifted the focus of governance in Maharashtra, because there appears to be an irremediable divide between the alliance partners. To add fuel to the ongoing fire, AICC in-charge of the state Mohan Prakash said on Friday that Chavan was blamed for being indecisive mainly because he is honest and does not wanted to be a part of plunder. Prakash may be true in what he says about the present CM but there needs to be a serious debate on what exactly the state has done in the last 10 years.

And it’s not just the irrigation sector alone; a white paper is needed on different sectors such as power, industry, social justice, tribal development, urban development and housing.

Except spending huge amounts availed as loans from the World Bank for Mumbai Urban Infrastructure and Mumbai Urban Transport projects, there is hardly any development from the state’s own funds. That’s because most of the revenue income of the state is being spent on administrative costs and maintenance of government machinery.

To rub some more salt on wounds, the CM recently tried to explain why the irrigation sector had received reduced grants from the centre. Last year, Maharashtra got Rs 700 crore less compared to the previous year, mainly because of allegations of corruption in projects such Gosekhurd in Vidarbha.

But, it’s not only Gosekhurd; many such projects are mired in controversies of siphoning of public money collected from taxpayers. It also begs the question as to why only now, and not in the past, has the issue sparked any debate among politicians.

There are projects in Mumbai — like the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and Mithi river cleaning and widening —whose costs have gone up exponentially over a period of time, due to delays. For instance, the initial estimated cost of the sea link was around Rs 500 crore. By the time it was completed, expenses had reached Rs 1,600 crore plus. Talk about inflation!

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY¬†

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