In context of irrigation system in Maharashtra there has been many schemes which has worked towards betterment of the agricultural lands. The pattern of irrigation pattern in Maharashtra has been centralized process on decision making so far. If we look at the work and projects in recent 20 to 25 years it was largely focused on major construction works under irrigation department but with the changing time it came into light that these works are influenced and affected by contractors and politicians. The work structure and quality was debated many times on media but without concrete evidences it was dashed under the table. Many irrigation projects were initiated during this era and many of them are of very extravagant in nature in terms of money spent on it. There is statistical evidence which can show that it was manipulative figure in projection for cost estimation of projects. Several of these projects were cleared at the behest of contractors instead of checking water availability and requirement of the area. This ad-hoc planning and execution of irrigation projects to favor private interests at the cost of norms led to the irrigation scam.
In the last government dam Scam and issue like drought caught very much attention of the masses as the severity of the issue were high and people getting affected due to this was in large numbers. So when this government came into power everyone seemed too happy and hopeful. The chief minister also drawn attention on the same line by highlighting the corruption occurred in tenure of previous government. In state assembly on July 21, 2015 he said that “we pushed large Dams not irrigation.” But now after almost three down the line data reveals that the state has chosen to uncritically go ahead with the large irrigation projects rife with corruption, poor quality and violations of environmental laws.
Government claims that “Jalyukta Shivar has brought 21 lakh hectares of land under assured irrigation and created 15.74 TMC water storage capacity. Of the total 25,000 villages, which were reeling under drought, 11,494 have become water reliant. We are determined to make the remaining 13,506 villages drought free by 2019.” While the opposition leader states that “The scheme is good. But problem lies in substandard work. Therefore, greater attention should be paid to the quality of work.” Other projects undertaken to increase the irrigation potential and tackle water crisis are digging farm ponds and de-silting of dams. Of the total target of 1, 11,111 farm ponds, work has completed on 43,640. The total funds required are Rs 222.26 crore. Also there were many concerns raised on carryover of Irrigation scams.
On corruption in Large Dams, the Water Resources Department (WRD) of Maharashtra has been facing three petitions. One filed by activist Anjali Damaniya in April 2012 against corruption in 15 dams in Konkan region, second filed by Jan Manch, a voluntary organization from Nagpur, in Aug 2012, against cost irregularities in dams of Vidarbh region and third filed by water expert Pradeep Purandare in Oct 2014 for implementation of Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act 2005. This was evidence, if any was required of the state government’s reluctance to take any strong action against those involved in the scam. First FIR was registered towards the end of February after court passed severe strictures on laxity in the ACB probe.
In early February yet another probe had to be ordered by State Government this time into irregularities of all the 189 irrigation projects- totaling upto more than Rs 5,600 crore- cleared during the tenure of former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and former minister Sunil Tatkare, between 2007 and 2013. The state government appointed a four-member inquiry committee following an order by the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court in December 2015, in response to the PIL filed by Pradeep Purandare. The court was of the opinion that the 189 projects have violated MWRRA Act, 2005 since they were sanctioned before MWRRA finalizing the Integrated State Water Plan.
Interesting part of the story never ends here. Even after all this political struggle and battle on the issue of irrigation scam and big dam debate in Maharashtra large dams get the highest share of budgetary allocation. Even as the controversial realities of the irrigation scam were coming to light, Maharashtra State received the highest share of budgetary allocation for large dams under Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP). Of the 99 AIBP projects for which Union Budget proposed to spend Rs 86,500 in next five years, maximum number, 13, came from Maharashtra. Rs 17,000 crore were allocated in 2016-17 budget at the national level.
Nitin Gadkari, was quoted saying Maharashtra is hugely under-investing in developing its irrigation cover, Rs 7,000 crore compared to Rs 25,000 crore in Telangana. Studies however show that the cumulative public expenditure for irrigation in Maharashtra for last decade works out to Rs 1,18,235 crore and the cost of Irrigation Potential Utilized is Rs 20 lakh/ ha. even after spending over Rs 600,000 crores on major and medium dam and canal network between 1993-2010-11, net national canal irrigated area has been decreasing and not increasing.
While the state has taken no concrete action on irrigation scam, it has been prompt on reviving multiple dams which were rife with controversies ranging from irregular cost hikes to violation of environmental laws to violation of forest rights to technical infeasibility. These included dams in konkan region, Shai dam, Gargai dam, Human dam, Jigaon dam, Tapi River Recharge Scheme just to name a few. The state has also pushed some newer projects like interlinking dams of