The chairman of the Legislative Council Ramraje Nimbalkar on Monday ordered the government to probe the alleged ₹200-crore scam in the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan, the State government’s flagship water conservation scheme.
The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) will look into alleged irregularities in the scheme which promises to make the State drought free by the end of 2019. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Hemant Takle raised the issue of misappropriation of funds and demanded a probe by the ACB. The chairman conceded to the demand while asking the government to punish those officials found guilty of perpetrating the alleged scam, if at all.
The issue was earlier raised in the Council by the Leader of Opposition Dhananjay Munde on June 25, when he alleged that the misappropriation took place in Purandar taluka, Pune. This led to a commotion in the Council during the debate and the chairman had kept the ‘conclusion’ on the question pending for the final week of the proceedings. When it came up for discussion again on Monday, members of the Opposition pointed out that even the state Agriculture Commissioner’s report had confirmed of a scam in the scheme.
“The report of the commissioner is with the Water Resources Department and must be immediately forwarded to the ACB for a probe. I have learnt one of the cabinet minister had even written a letter recommending that a probe by the ACB was not necessary in this matter. The government must answer if this is true at all,” Mr. Nimbalkar said.
The scheme had targeted 5,000 villages in the first phase and was launched by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to bring water empowerment to 25,000 drought-affected villages in Maharashtra within five years. Mr. Takle said a Right to Information (RTI) activist had also complained to ACB of the scam in the scheme, which was probed and they had forwarded a request to the Government to conduct an “open” enquiry. But their plea was turned down, Mr. Takle alleged.
“There has been a clear attempt to suppress this matter,” he said. When the Minister of State for Water Resources attempted to respond to the allegations, sloganeering broke out in the House. The chairman ordered a probe and called off the day’s proceedings. “All the 1,300 works undertaken as part of the scheme must be probed,” the chairman ordered.