Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis
Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis
PTI Photo

Mumbai: A four-member committee chaired by former Additional Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar has found several irregularities and lapses in the Fadnavis government's flagship multi-crore Jalyukta Shivar Yojana (JSY) during 2015-19. The committee, formed in December last year after the Comptroller & Auditor General’s scathing findings, in its 70-page report, has strongly recommended a probe by the Anti-Corruption Bureau and also sought an administrative inquiry into the works awarded under the scheme. The report is a major setback for former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has repeatedly said there was no scam in JSY.

The committee had probed the expenditure of Rs 9,633.75 crore incurred during 2015-19 into various 1,120 water conservation-related works in 120 villages. The CAG had already observed that the JSY had had little impact in achieving water neutrality and increasing groundwater levels. “There are large-scale irregularities in the works awarded and corruption that need to be inquired by the Anti-Corruption Bureau,” the committee said.

Water Conservation Minister Shankarrao Gadakh-Patil confirmed that the government had received the committee’s report. “The government will examine the committee’s recommendations and initiate future action,” he noted.

The government has justified the probe, citing that the Fadnavis government had selected 2,586 villages under the JSY and nearly 6.41 lakh works had been 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 requirements and as specified in the village plan for drinking and irrigation.

The committee has found that in several works, bills were drawn up without any actual work on the ground. Several projects were completed without due permission, while ignoring technical issues. “Lakhs of rupees were spent, without purpose. Besides, several works were awarded without issuing e-tenders,” the committee said.

The committee has looked into 600 complaints received regarding the JSY works.

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, this shortfall was more than 20 per cent. The CAG had 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 had collected cess towards maintenance and repairs, as had been proposed in the scheme.

Land under water-intensive cash crops increased in many villages, while only 29 of 80 villages were declared water-neutral. Third-party audits at Jawhar and Mokhada found major problems with the 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.

Meanwhile, BJP legislator Ashish Shelar claimed that the JSY was a people’s movement to make Maharashtra drought-free. He said it was not a government scheme but was implemented by the farmers as a campaign. “It is the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s attempt to defame the JSY merely as it was launched by the Fadnavis government,” he alleged.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal