A day after PM Modi showered praise on the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis government’s flagship Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan (water conservation) scheme, the Maha Vikas Aghadi cabinet has ordered an inquiry by the special investigation team into the project.
The state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has approved a comprehensive probe into the project which sought 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 have come handy for the cabinet. Patil said the SIT will be constituted by the Home Department, which is headed by NCP leader and Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
The CAG, in its report, which was tabled in the state legislature during the monsoon session on September 8, had observed that Fadnavis' pet scheme had a little impact in achieving water neutrality and increasing groundwater level despite the state spending a whopping Rs 9,633.75 crore.
The government had kept an annual target of 5,000 villages, hoping to make them drought free during 2015-19.
The CAG had castigated the previous government for lack of transparency in the execution of works and inadequate monitoring by the department. The CAG, which conducted the audit for January to December 2019, submitted its report in June 2020.
The state cabinet’s decision comes when both Fadnavis and the 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.
The Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress have jointly decided to counter BJP charges and the SIT probe is in line with the ruling partners’ strategy. However, the BJP claimed the government’s decision smacked of vendetta.
However, it is now BJP’s turn to defend itself as, during the Congress-NCP dispensation in 2009 and 2014, it had fired repeated salvos against the NCP for overlooking a multi crore irrigation scam. The then irrigation ministers Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare were in the line of fire. Although the Congress-NCP government appointed SIT subsequently gave a clean chit, the Fadnavis government had ordered a probe by the Anti Corruption Bureau which has also given a clean chit to Ajit Pawar.