File Photo
File Photo

Mumbai: After almost a month-and-a-half, the Maharashtra government on Tuesday set up a four-member committee chaired by former Additional Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar, to conduct an open inquiry into the alleged scam and irregularities in the Fadnavis government's flagship multi-crore Jalyukta Shivar Yojana (JSY).

The state cabinet had, on October 14, cleared the inquiry based on the scathing observations made by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report. Other committee members include the additional director general of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, water resources department secretary Sanjay Belsare and the executive director of soil conservation and watershed area management.

The government, in a notification on Tuesday, has asked the committee to submit a report in six months and a report on its recommendations every month.

The CAG had made scathing observations, saying that the JSY had little impact in achieving water neutrality and increasing groundwater levels, after a whopping Rs 9,633.75 crore had been spent. The committee would hold an open inquiry into the 1,120 works in 120 villages examined by the CAG. The committee will suggest administrative or divisional inquiry into these works.

This has been necessitated because the Fadnavis government had selected 2,586 villages under the JSY and nearly 6.41 lakh works were undertaken, of which 6.30 lakh (98 per cent) were completed, at a cost of Rs 9,633.75 crore. In 83 of the 120 villages selected for the audit, the storage created was not sufficient to meet water requirement as indicated in the village plan for drinking and irrigation.

The committee has also been tasked with holding an open inquiry into the over 600 complaints received since 2015 with regard to the JSY works and later, recommending administrative or divisional probes.

The government’s decision is crucial, as the CAG had observed that in 37 of the 83 villages, water shortage was because of less storage created than had been proposed. In 25 of 37 villages, the shortfall was more than 20 per cent. The CAG further observed that district authorities did not get periodical reports, to monitor the progress of the implementation. It has slammed the maintenance of completed works and said none of the 120 villages collected cess towards maintenance and repairs, as proposed in the scheme.

Land under water-intensive cash crops increased in many villages, while there were only 29 of 80 villages declared water-neutral. The third party audits at Jawhar and Mokhada found major problems with structural soundness of the projects, the CAG observed. It also pulled up the authorities for not uploading pictures of ongoing works at various stages, to maintain transparency.

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Free Press Journal