Former Maharashtra chief minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis
Former Maharashtra chief minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis
(Photo: BL Soni)

Mumbai: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praise on the BJP-led government’s flagship Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan (water conservation scheme), the Maha Vikas Aghadi cabinet on Wednesday has ordered an inquiry by the special investigation team (SIT) into it. The state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray approved a comprehensive probe into Fadnavis government’s dream project to make the state drought free. It was announced by the Minister of Water Supply and Sanitation Gulabrao Patil.

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) scathing observations on lapses in the implementation of Jalyukta Shivar came handy to the state cabinet to announce SIT probe. Patil said the formation of SIT will be done by the Home Department headed by NCP leader and Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.

CAG in its report, which was tabled in the state legislature during the monsoon session on September 8, had observed that it had a little impact in achieving water neutrality and increasing groundwater level despite spending a whopping Rs 9,633.75 crore.

The government had kept an annual target of 5,000 villages to make them drought free during 2015-19.

CAG had castigated the previous government for a lack of transparency in the execution of works and inadequate monitoring by the department. CAG, which conducted the audit for January to December 2019, submitted its report in June 2020.

According to the report, 22,586 villages were taken under the Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan and nearly 6.41 lakh works were undertaken of which 6.30 lakh (which is 98%) were completed at a cost of Rs 9633.75 crore. In 83 of 120 villages selected for the audit, the storage created was not sufficient to meet the water requirement as indicated in the village plan for drinking and irrigation.

The state cabinet’s decision comes when former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and BJP are targeting the state government over its decision to shift Metro 3 car shed to Kanjurmarg from Aarey Colony and also its repeated refusal to reopen the temples across Maharashtra.

Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress have jointly decided to counter BJP's charges and the SIT probe is in line with the ruling partners’ strategy. However, BJP claimed the government’s decision shows vendetta politics.

However, it is now BJP’s turn to defend as the party during Congress-NCP government during 2009 and 2014 had fired repeated salvos against NCP for a multi-crore irrigation scam. The then irrigation ministers Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare were targeted. Although the Congress-NCP government-appointed SIT gave clean chit, the Fadnavis government had ordered a probe by Anti Corruption Bureau which has also given clean chit to Ajit Pawar.

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