CAG Report · Environment Impact Assessment · Forest Advisory Committee

State plans to take up Human dam in eco-sensitive region of Vidarbha while existing projects in vicinity remain incomplete

(Above: Location of Proposed Human Dam and the tiger Corridor cutting across (Map by GREENPEACE) ( Source:’s-Tigers.pdf)

While Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) has been undergoing inquiry by Anti Corruption Bureau and facing a Public Interest Litigation for financial irregularities & cost escalations exposed during the irrigation scam of 2012, the State Government of Maharashtra continues to push new projects in the ecologically sensitive region of Vidarbha.

State Government of Maharashtra has decided to give yet another try to revive Human River Project, a major irrigation project proposed on the Human River near Sirkada Village of Sindewahi Taluka, Dist. Chandrapur. Human dam with storage capacity of about 247 MCM (Million Cubic Meters) plans to irrigate 46,117.00 ha. for which it will submerge 7651.11 ha of land. This disproportionately large submergence (nearly 16% of the proposed irrigation!) also includes 1925.55 Ha of rich full grown forest of Vidarbha. (which is nearly 4.2% of the proposed irrigation!) (Earlier figure for forest submergence in print media and few other documents was 1535.85 ha. But latest official documents mention 1925.55 Ha)

Human River is a tributary of the Andhari River that merges into the Wainganga. The reservoir that will be created after impoundment of the waters will be just 4.25 km from the boundaries of the Tadoba National Park and 3.2 km. from the Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary, both of which form the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), a vital area for tiger conservation in central India. The proposed dam falls in the Eco-Sensitive Zone of TATR and thus needs National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) clearance.

The project is being pushed by Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is currently a State Cabinet Minister of Finance, Planning, and Forest Departments in the Government of Maharashtra. State Government is seeking clearance from State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) before it could be sent to NBWL for approval. In September 2014 a four-member high-powered committee constituted by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to visit Human dam site at Sirkada, 3.5km from TATR in Chandrapur district.[i] The meeting in which the decision was taken to revive the project was held due to Mungantiwar’s follow up with then Minister of Environment Prakash Javadekar.[ii]

The report of the committee has been kept under wraps till date. Continue reading “State plans to take up Human dam in eco-sensitive region of Vidarbha while existing projects in vicinity remain incomplete”


Sinchan Shodh Yatra finds Gosikhurd Right Bank Canal incomplete even after a decade of construction

Above: Irrigation official confronting the angry farmer from Asolamendha village in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra Photo: Amruta Pradhan

“Farmers are dying… but your procedures have to be complete…”

Sight of an angry farmer saying this to an irrigation official has stayed with me long after I returned from visit to Gosikhurd Right Bank Canal (RBC). More often than not, I, like many others have read and written about mighty Gosikhurd- that multi thousand crore irrigation project languishing incomplete for last 32 years. I was now seeing personification of the havoc wrecked by this poorly planned and even more poorly implemented project.

I was at the Asolamendha dam, tail end of Gosikhurd RBC. 30-40 farmers from nearby villages suffering because of the shoddy work of RBC had gathered with complaints at tip of their tongue. Nature of complaints was serious. This incomplete canal running a total length of 99.53 km from Gosikhurd Dam in Pauni Tehsil of Bhandara District to Asolamendha Dam in Nagbhid tehsil of Chandrapur District has not only failed to provide irrigation  but is also destroying the catchment of the local water sources.

I was visiting Gosikhurd RBC as a part of Sinchan Shodh Yatra- a series of fact finding tours started since May 2015 by Jan Manch– a voluntary organization from Nagpur to uncover the shocking ground reality of corruption laden incomplete irrigation projects of Vidarbha region. The yatra that has visited 18 projects so far is being joined by more and more farmers who have suffered due to the poorly implemented, half done irrigation projects. It is becoming a platform for affected people to raise their voices and slowly emerging as a pressure group on irrigation officials. (Read more about Sinchan Shodh Yatra at

Shodh yatra consisting of about 70 people had taken an inspection tour of Gosikhurd RBC which was proposed to irrigate command area of 64,362 Ha but has been incomplete since last decade. During its journey of 50 km length of RBC (from 45 km from Gosikhurd dam to Asolamendha) Shodh yatra witnessed stalled work of the main canal which has not resumed for past more than three years, farmers agitating over host of issues from incomplete branch canals to crop damage caused by breach of canals and irrigation officials offering more and more excuses. Continue reading “Sinchan Shodh Yatra finds Gosikhurd Right Bank Canal incomplete even after a decade of construction”

CAG Report · Dams · Maharashtra

Public Audits of corruption ridden irrigation projects in Vidarbha: Sinchan Shodh Yatra

Right Bank Canal of Gosikhurd Dam (Photo: Jan Manch)

Controversial irrigation projects of Maharashtra continue to make headlines after massive irrigation scam that was unveiled in 2012. Following an inquiry in the scam, the state cabinet has recently scrapped 94 tenders of 14 irrigation projects worth Rs 9,196 Crore.[i] Around 52 of these tenders have been under the scanner of anti-corruption bureau (ACB), with first information reports (FIRs) filed in four of them. Continue reading “Public Audits of corruption ridden irrigation projects in Vidarbha: Sinchan Shodh Yatra”


Open Letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis

Above: CM Devendra Fadnavis Photo from: IBN Lokmat

Dear Chief Minister of Maharashtra,

Congratulations for becoming the Chief Minister of one of the progressive States in the country.

We would have felt better if this greeting was without the smudge of Voice Vote in confidence motion. We would have liked to see that while coming into power, you and your government had no links whatsoever with tainted politics of National Congress Party, which was named in a scam that affected Maharashtra’s weakest, but in many senses, its bravest populace: its farmers. But Voice vote has raised a question mark on this. Leader of your party had called NCP as Naturally Corrupt Party!

Nonetheless, you are known to have a great public image as a proactive, scholarly leader with integrity and intelligence.The last CM we had also had a scholarly and clean image, but after resigning from the CM’s post, which he held for more than four years, he admits to his mea culpa that he did not take the firm action in the irrigation scam because he wanted to save his government from collapsing. Maharashtra’s people, besides his own party, paid the price for this.

The crucial qualities the state seeks right now as it stands on the crossroad of political upheaval and natural calamities are not only a clean image, but forthrightness, commitment to democratic & accountable governance and, more importantly, capacity for an independent and clear judgement which is not swayed by the orders of higher ups or peers.

Natural calamities made worse by government’s mismanagement and inaction have racked Maharashtra in the past few years. Right on the heels of the dam scam, came the 2012-13 drought, dubbed by some (somewhat erroneously) as the worst drought in past forty years. After this came the delayed rains, droughts and excessive rainfall in Vidarbha, the hailstorms of February and March 2014, several agricultural diseases, crash of market prices of agricultural produce and fruits. In July 2014, the Malin Tragedy underlined how vulnerable, unprepared and fragile is our Western Ghats Region. Even now, Vidarbha region is reeling from late rains and extremely poor yield of soybean.

The calamities have affected the social and political milieu of the state; they have also literally broken the backs of its farmer. You have experience in disaster management and can appreciate how meagre our response has been to the natural calamities. To the manmade calamities, too, our response has been far from satisfactory. After more than two years after the so called exposé of the irrigation scam, we still have not brought a single irrigation official or politician or contractor to book. This scam and the sheer callousness of Congress-NCP government in handling the issue was one of the main factors behind its collapse. BJP did play an important role in following up with the issue in several parliament sessions and also with the media, but its actions and demands lacked conviction and seemed to save some of the culprits that were close to the BJP.

Irrigation Scam

Isn’t it surprising that being an opposition for 15 years, the BJP played such little real role in unearthing the scam? In fact, it was reported that when some people approached Nitin Gadkari with evidence of illegalities and irregularities, they were told that he is unable to take action against Congress–NCP as “Woh hamare char kaam karte hai, aur hum unke char kaam karte hai”.

The scam came into focus due to efforts of the then-serving chief engineer of Maharashtra Engineering Training Academy (META), Vijay Pandhare, media reports, CAG, courts, civil society and activists of the then-India Against Corruption (later renamed Aam Aadmi Party or AAP)—Anjali Damaniya, Mayank Gandhi, and others. The sheer extent and the impact of the unprecedented scam shocked the nation, after spending more than Rs 70,000 crore for over 10 years there was practically no increase in area under irrigation in Maharashtra. It needs to be remembered here that the scores of mega irrigation projects which were sanctioned and received their first administrative approval even without requisite water availability studies were initiated in the period when Sena-BJP was in power.

It needs to be acknowledged that Eknath Khadse, as the leader of opposition, and you, played a significant role in following up on the scam and pressurising the government.

At the same time, there were some notable contractors, close to BJP or even MPs and MLAs of BJP who were reportedly involved in the scam. Notable examples include Ajay Sancheti of SMS Infrastructure who is also the permanent National Executive Committee Member of the BJP. Media reports showed that Sancheti was not only implicated in Irrigation Scam, but in coal block allocation scam and Adarsh scam, too!

Damaniya, member of AAP, showed through RTI that Sancheti bagged 10 contracts from VIDC worth more than Rs 3,000 crore between his older company, new company and joint ventures with others (in 2005, Sancheti’s firm, Shaktikumar M Sancheti Ltd, changed its name to SMS Infrastructure Ltd and got a fresh certificate of incorporation, Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation was informed of this name change. But the two companies continued to exist together, bagging contractor between them and also additionally). These include almost all big projects in Vidarbha, including Gosi Khurd, Lower Penganga, Purna Barrage, Wardha Barrage, and Pedhi Project. This was when awarding more than three contracts to one contractor was illegal. Rules were bent, huge mobilisation advances were given, scope of work was increased and cost escalations were approved to help contractors. But BJP did not seem to take any action about this.

In case of BJP MLC Mitesh Bangadiya, it was his company MG Bangadiya Infrastructure which constructed the hugely flawed 23 left bank canal section of Gosi Khurd Project, which was recommended for complete demolition by Mendhegiri Committee in their report.

It is unfortunate that BJP took no action in this regard. It is also reported that in the midst of these exposures, it was Gadkari who specifically wrote to the water resources ministry at the Centre and sought early release of funds for these very contractors. It was stated that when BJP submitted “bullock cart full of evidence” to the Special Investigation Team headed by Madhav Rao Chitale to investigate the scam, incriminating evidence against these two groups were left out.

We hope that once in power, you will immediately order a judicial or CBI probe into the scam and full enquiry into the contractors who benefitted out of it, including the ones close to BJP, as also demanded by others.

SIT and White Paper

There was a need to reject the SIT Committee Report under the chairpersonship of Chitale as it was not an SIT—it had diluted TORs and Chitale is known to biased in favour of such projects, the department bureaucracy and status quo. The constitution of the committee was only a ploy to buy more time and show a semblance of taking action on the scam. We hope that you do order an immediate CBI probe into this or a judicially appointed SIT with independent members having track record of being able to take on issues upfront, with clear TORs and with power to summon and question.

The white paper brought out by the Water Resources Department (WRD) was also a shield for guilty to hide behind, and, unfortunately, other political parties, including BJP, failed to critically analyse it.

  • We hope that after coming to power, you will hold public consultations on the irrigation scam, white paper, at the dams in question to understand the local issues and real situation. There is also a need to include several dams left out of the white paper.
  • Post facto analysis of the performance and impacts of large dams is a need for the state as we continue to hanker behind more such projects for political and contractor benefit. Maharashtra, with the largest number of big dams in the country, has one of the lowest areas under irrigation.
  • We hope that you will take action against those involved in the projects named in the SIT Report (like Gosikhurd), responsible officials, ministers and contractors who benefitted unduly from the scam. Work on all such projects should be suspended till there is logical end to scam issue.
    Equity in water distribution

Maharashtra has the nation’s largest water infrastructure in terms of projects completed. There is a need to use this existing infrastructure in an optimum way for the benefit of the poorest, neediest, farmers and in a sustainable, equitable and democratic way.

  • We hope the new government will support equitable, sustainable cropping pattern, scrap secretive diversions to urban areas, industries and unplanned water intensive crops from dams meant for agriculture, and dismantle bodies like High Powered Committee immediately.

Environmental Governance

CAG report on irrigation projects in Maharashtra 2013-14 has exposed that works of more than Rs 7,000 crore were initiated by the WRD on nearly 249 projects without requisite forest and environmental clearances. Not only did it result in locking thousands of crores of public funds, it also damaged the meagre forest cover and environment of the state without justification or informed decision making process.

  • We hope the new government takes immediate action against projects mentioned unambiguously in CAG report and officials who initiated such projects.

Implement Gadgil report on Western Ghats

The Coalition’s stand on Western Ghats report under the leadership of Madhav Gadgil was escapist. The misinformation spread about Eco Sensitive Zone and the push for self-benefitting industries in the Konkan region seems to be one of the primary reasons for Narayan Rane’s defeat.

  • We hope the new government accepts the Gadgil report without losing more time and takes steps as per the report to democratise environmental governance in the Western Ghats. As Gadgil has reiterated many a time, the report is not a blueprint but a framework which can be modified by the people themselves.
    De-politicise sugar

Depoliticize Sugar

Water politics of Maharashtra is linked to the sugar politics. We grow sugarcane in the most drought affected regions, benefitting generations of political masters of NCP and Congress.

Maharashtra’s sugar crop is most inefficient user of water as per a study of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). Although the sugar barons make the right noises about working for farmers’ benefit, that is a lame argument when you take into account thousands of poor farmers who are deprived of ANY irrigation benefits because of concentration of water in the hands of the sugar lobby. Apart from creating deep schisms in the social fabric of the state, it is also making the cane farmer vulnerable to climate change and the whims and fancies of sugar barons. Per tonne rates of cane are not commensurate with the cost of water, labour and fertilisers. Significant to note here that factories in Vidarbha belonging to politicians like Gadkari reportedly offer the lowest cane rates in the state to the farmer at around Rs 1,650 tonne when the average rate are about Rs 2,200 tonne.

  • There is a need to break the sugar shackles chaining the water and agriculture sector, to give more autonomy to the proposed Sugar Development Board, with more farmers on board, not sugar barons. There is also need to stop new licences of sugar industries in the drought belt; at present, the Sugar Commissioner has no such powers. Flow irrigation to sugarcane needs to be stopped, audit of sewage treatment of sugar factories needs to be carried out and the factories have to be made zero discharge, full water reuse models. SANDRP has witnessed that even factories of powerful politicians do not have functioning effluent treatment plants despite sugar industry being in the grossly polluting category (GPI).
    There was a time when the people concerned turned a blind eye towards ills of sugar factories as they were the engines of cooperative movement in Maharashtra. That is nearly in the past now. More and more cooperative sugar factories, set up with money from government, farmers and shareholders became dens of political manipulation and are being converted into private mills at a price which is a joke of their valuation. We have 168 cooperative sugar factories, but about 36 are being liquidated, 26 have been converted from cooperative to private entities and here too there is a strong political presence.
  • We hope that once in power, BJP conducts an audit of sugar industry including water efficiency of sugarcane in Maharashtra with respect to water use, release of water for sugarcane by dams, especially in drought affected Marathwada and western Maharashtra like Ujani, Lower Terna, Manjara, Mazalgao, lift irrigation schemes on Ujani and other scarcity-hit rivers, etc.
    Climate action plan

Action on Changing Climate?

While disasters like the February 2014 hailstorms affected more than 10,000 farmers in vulnerable Marathwada and Vidarbha, we still do not have a State Action Plan on Climate Change which should have been ready years ago through people’s participation.

  • We look forward to your government to complete work on State Action Plan for Climate Change in a community driven, bottom-up, transparent and democratic manner.

The problems of climate becoming more uncertain, extreme weather events increasing in frequency and rainfall failing when due, protective irrigation is becoming a dire need. Despite absence of irrigation, dryland farming and horticulture in limited water is thriving in Maharashtra. The recent example is of the phenomenal success of pomegranate cultivation which is nearly completely on drip and is grown in some of the driest regions of the state. However, the farmers still suffer losses in the absence of processing plants and state support, which is skewed in favor of sugarcane. Same is the case with oilseeds like groundnuts, coarse millets like jowar and bajra which offer livelihood and nutritional security.

We look to the new government in supporting marginal farmers and other farmers who grow such crops as ambassadors of climate change adaptation. We also hope your government will encourage system of rice intensification for various crops.
Urban areas continue to guzzle more water, polluting and killing rivers in their wake. Unfortunately, State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) does not have a single success story to its credit. It has not cleaned a single river since its inception although receiving hundreds of crores every year from state as well as the Centre.

  • We expect the new government to conduct an immediate and open audit of the work of Maharashtra SPCB and fix responsibility for this resounding failure, order complete change of the functioning of the SPCB to make its governance directly accountable to the victims of pollution and also involving participation of the vulnerable communities and independent groups.
    Revive rivers.

River Rejuvenation

In your city, Nagpur, too, the Nag River is chronically polluted and reduced to an open drain. It could not be rejuvenated although you were a Mayor of the city twice. Now there is a move to denotify the river, which will aid setting up category red industries at its very origin, killing the river. We don’t see any political party talking about this issue.

We hope you will stop this killing of rivers as your government at the Centre has been saying that river rejuvenation is their priority, we hope it is yours too.

Incidentally, Nagpur is one of the very few cities in the state with an operational PPP water supply model. There have been too many problems and protests on this issue, we will not go into the details here, but it is again notable that the Orange City Water Supply Limited is a joint venture between Veolia and Vishvaraj Infrastructure, which is closely linked to BJP leadership. There have been no post facto studies of the efficacy of this model and the way through which tendering was done was suspicious.

  • We hope the BJP Government will democratise the governance of water supply and waste water department of the municipal bodies rather than pushing for water privatisation.
    Innovative solutions

Encouraging Local Initiatives

The 2012 and 2014 drought saw some inspiring local initiatives from farmers across the state in terms of working on new watershed structures, desilting older structures and improving distribution systems. These emerged as more equitable and even efficient solutions than larger dams. A compilation of success stories with a clear view to support local led water conservation efforts will be a shot in the arm for the water sector in Maharashtra. Although the past government tried to support smaller structures by passing government resolutions (GRs) and building strings of cement nalla bunds, watershed management is more than just a quick fix solution.

There are several other issues ailing the water-environment-agriculture milieu of the state. The Congress-NCP alliance in power earlier was lampooned because of the absolute autocracy practised in the party, the insult of public opinion and concerns, and the leaders of the coalition proving too weak to steer the state into secure and transparent governance.

We hope that through you, Maharashtra will be astride on this path. We hope that together we can work towards equitable, sustainable, corruption-free, pro-people development and governance of Maharashtra.

All the very best.

Parineeta Dandekar

(A slightly edited version of this was published in Down to Earth. Please find it here:


CAG blows the lid off Massive irrigation scam in Andhra Pradesh


Summary points:

  • As on March 2012, Rs 80,000 crores spent on the projects under Jalyagnam, which was launched in the year 2004 by the then CM Rajshekhar Reddy, involving 86 projects involving cost of over Rs 1.86 lakh crore.
  • Almost all test checked projects were taken up and contract awarded without obtaining necessary clearances such as investment clearance (24 projects) from Planning Commission, forest clearance (21 projects) and environment clearance (18 projects) from Ministry of Environment and Forests; in principle clearance (16 projects) from CWC and R&R clearance (14 projects) from Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • Out of 74 irrigation projects, 31 were Lift Irrigation Schemes. The power required for these schemes amounted to nearly 54.43 percent of total Installed Capacity of the state and around 30.93 percent of total consumption of the state.
  • Audit scrutiny revealed that state government was yet to approve the draft plan for R&R of over 50 percent of displaced from 546 villages. Out of 281 villages for which the draft R & R plan is yet to be submitted, 206 villages pertain the controversial Polavaram project.
  • CAG noted that while the state government show an extra ordinary commitment in expediting the task of awarding the contract for Spillway (in March 2005) and ECRF dam work (in August 2006) for Polavaram project, it had not even initiated the socio-economic survey of the submergence zone and not yet identified the PAFs.
  • Some of the contractors garnered most of the work packages, largely through cross-formation of Joint Ventures amongst themselves. CAG found several flaws in tendering process such as, awarding contract on single tender basis, keeping qualification criteria fixed for empanelment of contractors at less stringent levels etc.

Jalyagnam, the most ambitious irrigation scheme of Andhra Pradesh has come under severe indictment in a recent performance audit carried out by CAG of India. The report got tabled in Andhra Pradesh assembly on June 21st, the last day of the budget session. The program comprised 86 projects (44 major, 30 medium, 4 flood banks and 8 modernisation works) and was estimated to cost Rs 1.86 lakh crore. While 12 under implementation projects (with an approved cost of Rs 2139 crore) were brought under Jalyagnam with an express aim of expediting their completion, the rest of the projects got sanctioned between 2004-’05 and 2008-’09. The programme aimed at extending irrigation in an ayacut of 97.40 lakh acres and stabilise another 22.53 lakh acres of existing ayacut in parched and drought prone areas of Telangana and Rayalseema. It also promised to provide drinking water to 1/4th of the state’s population and generate 2700 MW of power.

Concrete mixer machine worth Rs 7 Crores Photo:Anil Kumar
Concrete mixer machine worth Rs 7 Crores Photo:Anil Kumar

CAG audits for Andhra Pradesh have been reviewing irrigation projects in Andhra Pradesh every year. During the period 2004-2010, it had examined 18 irrigation projects. Almost all of those projects formed a part of Jalyagnam and those audit findings are under discussion by Public Accounts Committee. Those earlier audit reports have raised mainly two concerns: i) the need for building safeguards in the EPC (i.e. Engineering, Procurement and Construction) mode of contracts with regard to variation in scope, specifications, design etc. and ii) the impact of non-acquisition of land and non-obtaining statutory clearances from CWC, MoEF and MoTA before awarding the contracts.

CAG carried out performance audit of 26 out of 74 major and medium irrigation projects, involving a capital outlay of Rs 1.43 lakh crore, taken up under Jalyagnam during June – December 2011 with a focus on irrigation benefits. As on March 2012, Rs 61,498 crore were spent on these projects. Some of these 26 projects had also come audit scrutiny earlier as individual projects or as part of performance audit of AIBP and Godawari Water Utilisation Authority. Those audit findings haven’t been repeated in the present report.

Audit scrutiny of project related documents around feasibility issues revealed that many projects were taken up without adequate planning on ensuring the availability of water and power (in the case of Lift Irrigation Shcmes), and inadequate delineation of the targeted ayacut in some cases. It was especially so, in respect of projects on river Krishna and Pennar, where the water required for successful implementation of the projects is far above the quantity available in these two river basins. The state government was conscious of this aspect and hence made a claim that it proposed to utilise the surplus/ flood flow in the two river basins. CAG audit observation noted that there was evidence in the records made available to audit that the flood data of these rivers were analysed to assess the average number of days that flood flows are available annually. There was also no uniformity in the number of flood days adopted for the designing of the projects that were supposed to use flood flows of Krishna.

National Park Area W Godavari District Photo: Anil Kumar
National Park Area W Godavari District Photo: Anil Kumar

Where is water for the projects? CAG cites an opinion expressed by an expert committee constituted by the state government in July 1997, to examine the feasibility of implementing Galeru Nagari project. This expert committee had stated at that point almost 15 years ago that the number of flood days in Krishna was only 30 per annum that too with only 40 percent dependability. Examined alongside this observation, some of the projects taken up on river Krishna are not viable and this is corroborated by the fact that CWC has returned the project proposals of Galeru Nagari, Veligonda and Srisailam Left Bank Canal projects to state government, stating that the state government had failed to establish clear and firm availability of water on a long term basis for these projects. CAG audit scrutiny also underlined a Planning Commission stipulation that all projects that have inter-state ramifications should be cleared by CWC, but state government had not obtained for these projects as of September 2012. CAG also noticed that there was no evidence in the records produced for audit to show that the proposals in respect of Gandikota-CBR lift scheme and CBR Lingala canal were sent to the CWC at any stage for approval.

Contracts before statutory clearances Not only was it an issue of an abysmally poor planning of Jalyagnam projects, audit scrutiny revealed that four projects were taken up without even feasibility studies and another 11 projects were taken up without preparation of Detailed Project Reports. CAG’s audit scrutiny also revealed that almost all test checked projects were taken up and contracts awarded without obtaining necessary clearances such as investment clearance (24 projects) from Planning Commission, forest clearance (21 projects) and environment clearance (18 projects) from MoEF, in-principle clearance (16 projects) from CWC and R&R clearance (14 projects) from MoTA. The much touted Jalyagnam had clearly bulldozed its way through the environmental regulation regime. It would be informative to find out if Planning Commission, CWC, MoEF and MoTA ever tried to engage the Andhra Pradesh state government to abide by the laws of the land. If this is not an example of brazen disregard for laws unleashed by development intoxication, where else shall we look?

As per annexure 3.1 in the audit report even as of July 2012 the following projects had not received Forest Clearances even as contracts for works on the same were awarded for quite some time now: Uttar Andhra, Galeru Nagari, Somasila Swarnmukhi Link Canal, Somasila Project, Rajiv Dummugudem, Pranahita Chevella, Dummugudem NS Tail pond, Telugu Ganga, Handri Neeva, Veligonda, Komaram Bheem, Kanthanapally, Devadula and Yellampally.

The same annexure states that following projects had not received Environment Clearance as of July 2012: Venkatnagaram, Uttar Andhra, SomasilaSwarnamukhiLinkCanal, Gandhikota – CBR Lift, CBRLingalaCanal, Pranhita Chevella, Dummuguddem NS Tail pond and Kanthanpally.

55% of AP power for Lift Irrigation Schemes? Out of 74 irrigation projects, 31 are Lift Irrigation Schemes. The power required for these projects, taken up over the river Krishna and Godavari, works out to be nearly 54.43 percent of total installed capacity of the state, and around 30.39 percent of the total consumption of the state! Andhra being a power deficit state, providing the requisite power to operate these schemes would pose a big challenge for the state government and expose the wisdom of mad push for the Jalyagnam.

The Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode of contracting, currently the system followed by many governments for time bound execution of the project and minimising the risks to state, as adopted by state government did not ensure commensurate benefits to the State. Audit scrutiny noticed that several contracts were awarded on a single tender basis, and sufficient time was not given to ensure fair competition. Technical sanctions were obtained after the receipt and opening of bids in several cases. Audit also found cases where finalisations of Iinternational Bench Mark values were delayed and post tender changes to INMs were allowed.

MEIL Company got as many as 28 packages worth Rs 36,916 crore by entering into joint ventures with 23 companies. SEW construction company also garnered 51 packages worth Rs 25,369 crore by entering into JV with 20 different companies. Maytas, which was in the hands of Ramalinga Raju’s son Teja Raju during 2004-10, had successfully grabbed 28 packages worth Rs 23,186 crore by entering into joint venture with 17 companies. CAG also pointed that MEIL, AAG, BHEL and ABB companies were not in the original empanelled list but have teamed up with several empanelled firms to obtain contracts under open category.

No concern for Rehabilitation A program that was taken up and marketed all around in a mission mode to fast track the irrigation projects proceeded at snail pace when it came to ensuring resettlement and rehabilitation of affected people. Audit scrutiny revealed that state government was yet to approve the draft plan for R&R of over 50 percent of displaced from 546 villages. Out of 281 villages for which the draft R & R plan is yet to be submitted, 206 villages pertain the controversial Polavaram project. The Commissioner, R&R stated in a reply dated July 2012 that the government had prioritised 191 villages in different irrigation projects as of March 2012, and all the activities in this regard will have to be completed within the next two to three years. CAG was not quite convinced with this explanation and noted that “the reply confirms that Government is unable to complete even the planning process, despite expiry of the original agreement periods, for a majority of the projects”.

Photo: Tony Stewart
Photo: Tony Stewart

Further, provision of houses for the populated slated to be affected by the projects was abysmally slow, with just about 13 percent progress in constructing houses for these families. In respect of nine projects, namely Pulichintala, Veligonda, Bheema, Nettempadu, Tarakaram Tirth Sagar, Neelwai, Kalwakurthy, Handri Neeva and Devdula; as against 23166 houses contemplated, not a single house was completed as of March 2012! Further, in two projects, namely Polavaram and Yelampally involving five districts, the progress in completion of houses was only marginal.

Photo: Tony Stewart
Photo: Tony Stewart

Polavaram CAG indicted the controversial Polavaram project, which involved submergence of 277 villages, affecting 42,712 Project Affected Families with 131045 persons in 3 districts in Andhra Pradesh, apart from affecting 2335 PAFs with 11766 persons from 4 villages in Chhatisgarh and 1002 PAFs with 6316 persons from 8 villages in Odisha for visible delay in R & R activity. CAG noted that while the state government show an extra ordinary commitment in expediting the task of awarding the contract for Spillway (in March 2005) and ECRF dam work (in August 2006), it had not even initiated the socio economic survey of the submergence zone and had not yet identified the PAFs. Audit scrutiny also found out that the first phase of R & R activity, which was due for completion by June 2008, was not completed even as of March 2012. Even those 9 villages that are situated in close vicinity of the dam have not been shifted as noted by the audit. The state government has resettled only 277 families with 1136 persons so far despite incurring expenditure worth Rs 108 crore on R & R. Thus the progress on R & R front in Polavaram was a mere 5 percent during the last seven years. Isn’t it time for social scientists and researchers who have worked on the issue of displacement and rehabilitation to ask why is it that in projects after projects we witness that rehabilitation work is almost never carried out pari passu with civil construction work, let alone it being completed prior to embarking on the stages of construction!

Papi Hills National Park. Photo: Anil Kumar
Papi Hills National Park. Photo: Anil Kumar

However, when it came to acquire land for the projects the state government appeared to be trying to put up a brave performance! CAG audit revealed that out of 9.19 lakh acres of land required for projects, state government had acquired 5.97 lakh acres (i.e. almost 65 percent).

Common Command Area
Common Command Area

CAG also noted that delays completion of projects, along with changes to the specification and scope of work pursuant to detailed study and investigation and designs, pushed up the costs by Rs 52,116 crores compared to the origination sanction.

This performance audit points at how Jalyagnam that was used by the successive regimes in Andhra Pradesh to build a grandiose image rang hollow on the issue of due diligence in planning, showing due regards to the environmental regulations and dealing with the displaced people sensitively. It drives home the message that citizens must probe into the lofty claims churn out by propaganda machinery of the state. Will citizens start asking some tough questions on what plagues irrigation sector in India?

Bigger than Maharashtra Irrigatoin scam? From the figures available so far, it seems to be larger than the irrigation scam of Maharashtra. Will the media  take this up with equal zeal as they took up the case of Maharashtra irrigation scam and do persistent investigations into specific projects, specific irregularities, specific contracts, specific contractors, specific links of contractors with politicians, specific failure of regulatory agencies?

Himanshu Upadhyaya  (He is a research scholar at Centre for Studies in Science Policies, JNU, New Delhi)



Serious question marks over the SIT under Dr. Chitale

Pradeep Purandare, Retd. Associate Professor, Water and Land Management Institute, Aurangabad writes about the basic problems and limitations of the Special Investigation Team, under the Chairpersonship of Dr. Madhav Chitale, constituted by the Govenrment of Maharashtra to investigate the unprecedented Irrigation Scam in Maharashtra

Maharashtra’s infamous irrigation scam highlighted the agonizing state of Maharashtra’s water sector exposing the establishment, the government, the engineers and the numerous “Vikas-purush” who pulled irrigation projects (and not water!) for their constituencies. Drought that followed the scam highlighted the far reaching impacts of playing irresponsibly with water and rivers. Even the fraudulent White Paper on Irrigation Projects could not quell the huge discontent generated by the scam. Very reluctantly, state government constituted “Special Investigation Team” (SIT) on 31st December 2012, on the last day of such a commitment. The team was supposed to submit its report to the government within 6 months, i.e. till 30th June 2013. The committee has not submitted its report yet. Instead, it has asked for an extension of 6 months to the government which has been granted with alacrity. Thus, the Chitale committee has now become a “twelve monthly” committee, like the sugarcane which completes its cycle in 12 months! But looking at the constitution and the real motive behind forming this committee, it will not be surprising if this committee follows the eighteen month cycle like sugarcane in the state! In fact, looking at the remuneration and allowances given to the committee, it will not be a surprise if it even becomes perennial!

According to a leading Marathi Daily dealing with issues related to agriculture, (11th May2013), Dr. Chitale receives a remuneration of Rs. 1.50 Lakhs per month as the chair of the committee, while other members receive Rs. 1.25 lakh per month, with travel and related allowances being paid separately. Considering these details, I remember a washing powder ad, “Daag acche hai!!” In this context, it will be important to know exactly when officials like Dr. Chitale and Mr. Ranade retired, how many committees they worked on and how much of remuneration did they earn meanwhile. This information must also be made public.

Significantly, it cannot be forgotten that “Sinchan Sahayog,” [SS] an organization closely related with Chitale has been receiving tremendous government patronage since its conception. There has been a separate government resolution issued to facilitate government officers attending events organized by SS. Its office is in government premises at Aurangabad. All correspondences for SS take place through Godavari Khore’s e-mail id. Many government officers are office holders and/ or active members in SS. The questions like- whether government facilities are being used for programs organized by SS, whether the officers guilty of corruption/ scams are/ were part of SS, and whether SS receives government grants – are unanswered despite me raising them in a  reputed newspaper (27th March 2013).

As an illustrious Engineer, Dr. Chitale is not known to have taken any position against corruption/ scandals and misuse of post/ power. In fact, other officers of Water Resource Department – like Shri. Mendhegiri, Shri.Kulkarni, Shri.Vandere, Shri.Upase etc. – who do not get attention like Chitale but are equally capable, have already highlighted engineering defects, gross corruption and serious issues about several projects through their reports. Keeping this in the context, what more can the SIT achieve? The only implicit mandate of the team seems to be to buy time and eventually justify the white paper. Dr. Chitale’s response, “Investigating any allegations does not fall under the mandate of the SIT” in response to a demand by opposition leader, Mr. Tawde, speaks volumes about the committee.

Immense corruption, intentional irregularities, and misuse of power have been the hallmarks of the irrigation scam. Most allegations are quite serious and do not only limit themselves to engineering related issues. Transparency, public participation and accountability are totally missing in Maharashtra’s water resource development and management policies. Inclusiveness and participation have been consciously sidelined. There has been too much of engineering arrogance in such policies. Adjustments and impractical conditions accepted by so called vanguards of economic development – just to push the project forward- are now back-firing. Adamant “supply side management” rationale of increasing water availability at any cost as well as criminal and blatant neglect towards “demand side management” involving equitable, efficient water distribution underline our pathetic water management. We are experiencing the cumulative impacts of this approach. Overemphasis on supply side management has been one of the main drivers of the irrigation scam and Dr. Chitale has been a staunch supporter of such supply side management. Keeping this in mind, what investigation would he indulge in?

Despite knowing very well that Maharashtra WRD does not measure either the exact volume of water used or the actual area irrigated, Dr. Chitale believes that the same department has been successful in publishing – with fraudulent figures of- water audit, benchmarking and status of irrigation report. While speaking to a newspaper on 6th July 2012 Dr. Chitale said, “WRD’s records of the area irrigated are based on water-bills and hence, compared to Revenue, and Agriculture department, Water Resource Department’s data are more reliable”. It would be appropriate that I objected the same statement on 7th July 2012.

“To verify the created irrigation potential & actual area irrigated and water used for non-irrigation purposes; to study the details of area irrigated (such as area irrigated on wells, farm ponds & that irrigated by Water Conservation Department & WRD) and to find out reasons behind less area irrigated” constitutes the very first point of Chitale committee’s mandate. The committee is yet to submit even its interim report. It will, therefore, be interesting to see which statistics in this regard have been used & reported by Chitale Committe to Kelkar Committee.[1] Dr. Chitale is member of Kelkar Committee too. If the data furnished by WRD has been simply passed on to Committees without unbiased and fair checking, then it is a serious matter & may adversely affect the reports of both the committees. This point needs to be clarified by all concerned.

Water audit for 2009-10 was published in 2011. I raised some critical objections to the report and the figures published under it. The WRD did not clarify these points. However, there has been no water audit, benchmarking and irrigation status reports published since then!

Maharashtra Water Resource Development Centre (MWRDC) is said to be helping SIT in daily technical matters. MWRDC had been publishing water audit and benchmarking reports for many years without measuring water used and actual irrigated area. Many experts say privately that the MWRDC did not cooperate with Kulkarni Committee which was constituted to investigate barrages on GodavariRiver. Kulkarni Committee reportedly has mentioned this fact in its report.

Above details are part of the current reality of water management in Maharashtra. However, complications in the situation are because of another reason too. Dr. Chitale has been a proponent of a certain school of thought and he has seldom concealed his political inclination. His opinions and actions bear a special strategic meaning. In fact, he appears to behave as if he is on a mission of his parent organization. Against this backdrop, his constant tie-up with ruling class for shaping its water policies while keeping close links with opposition party warrant a detailed political analysis. What is he suggesting? What are his two recent comments pointing at?

7th Annual Marathwada Janata Vikas Parishad was organized on 21st April 2013 at Aurangabad. As an inaugural speaker, Dr. Chitale said, “Our decisions are going wrong because our water discourse is clouded by the dark shadow of agriculture”

Dr. Chitale specially guided industrialists during water management conference organized by Confederation of Indian Industries on 27th June 2013, again in Aurangabad. He said, “Considering the economic growth due to agriculture (4%), industry (8%) & service sector (15%) parallel weightage to all sectors is required.” (Times of India, Aurangabad, 28 June 2013)

Treating water as an economic commodity and referring to agriculture as a ‘dark shadow’ bears disastrous implications for farmers in the state. It underlines the hidden mandate that the Chitale committee is following. Keeping irrigation projects incomplete and transferring water from agriculture to industries seems to be a strategy. It is important to keep a keen watch on the SIT under Dr. Chitale’s chairpersonship (and even Kelkar committee for that matter), its credibility has many question marks already. The issues range beyond corruption.

[Edited Marathi version of this article is published in Divya Marathi (all editions) on 6th July 2013.

Translated by Damodar Pujari, SANDRP, with the permission and approval from the author.)

[1] Kelkar Committee, Headed by former finance secretary Vijay Kelkar, was appointed in May 2011 by Government of Maharashtra to analyse regional development imbalance, especially for regions like Vidarbha, Marathwada and Konkan which are lagging behind in terms of irrigation facilities, road network and spread of education and health infrastructure as compared to regions of Maharashtra.