Dams · Maharashtra

Tracing the Maharashtra Irrigation Scam: From 2012 to 2016

Above: Retaining wall of Gosikhurd RBC slid down from its location  Photo: Jan Manch

Aftermath of the irrigation scam exposed in 2012 in Maharashtra still continues. Roots of the scam were pointed out time and again by Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) and also by several other committees set up by the Government. The scam was finally unveiled in May 2012 with a combined effort of several whistle blowers from inside & outside the government as civil society groups including SANDRP. Unjustified cost overruns, forged tenders, tweaking the norms of tendering process, incomplete projects laden with inferior quality work were brought to light and the unholy nexus of corrupt leaders, government officials and contractors became visible like never before.
Continue reading “Tracing the Maharashtra Irrigation Scam: From 2012 to 2016”

Agriculture · Climate Change · Dams · Ministry of Environment and Forests

Farmers, Rivers and the Environment in Union Budget 2016-17

Above: Canals of Tillari Project, on of the AIBP Project supported in Union Budget 2016-17, unused and derelict Photo: Parineeta Dandekar

Massive expenditure on Large Dams will only help contractors

The Union Budget 2016-17 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Feb 29, 2016 seems to be promising in its thrust and focus towards farmers and the farming sector of the country. For a sector which employs about 55% of the work force of the country, this priority is much needed and one which holds a promise of a number of multiplier effects. He stated, “We are grateful to our farmers for being the backbone of our food security. We need to move beyond food security and give our farmers a sense of “Income Security”.” This is particularly required when the farmers are in dire states as they are today, many of them facing four consecutive crop failures, Kharif 2014, Rabi 2015, Kharif 2015 and Rabi 2016.  In 2015, on average 52 farmers committed suicide every single day in India.[1]

And hence, focus on farming is indeed a positive step. As Maharashtra State Water Resources Minister for State Vijay Shivtare once told me, “We are not very bothered about the high costs of Lift Irrigation Schemes per se. If they work well, and result in prosperous farmers, it would mean more agricultural implements, more Tractors, more vehicles, better homes etc., increasing the government’s revenue at the end of the day.” (“If they work well” was the operative part here, which has seldom materialized in Maharashtra). A Prosperous Farmer and strong farming economy can help all sectors.

Mr. Jaitley opened his budget speech with an Agenda to “Transform India”, based on nine pillars. Foremost pillar is ‘Agriculture and farmers’ welfare, with a focus on doubling farmers’ income in five years, by 2022. The total allocation for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is Rs 35, 984 Crores.

Finance Minister rightly diagnosed that “Irrigation is the critical input for increasing agricultural production and productivity.” Out of 141 million hectares of net cultivated area, only 46% is covered with irrigation and that there is a “need to address optimal utilization of water resources, create new irrigation infrastructure, conserve soil fertility, value addition and connectivity from farm to markets.”

For ensuring this, “Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana” will be implemented in mission mode through which 28.5 lakh hectares will be brought under irrigation”. A major part of this will be through “Fast tracking and Implementation of 89 irrigation projects under AIBP (Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Program) which have been languishing. These will help irrigate 80.6 Lakh hectares. These projects will need Rs 17,000 Crores next year and 86,500 Crores in next five years. 23 of these will be completed before 31st March 2017.”

So, in the coming 5 years, a whopping Rs 86,500 Crores of the taxes collected from all Indians and at least a part of the Krishi Kalyan Cess at 0.5% all taxable services will go into AIBP Projects, with over Rs 17,000 Crores being allocated in 2016-17 itself. This is highly problematic. AIBP was started by P. Chidambaram in 1996 and in two decades since then, it has not delivered anything susbstantial except huge bank balances for contractors, as also for the engineers, bureaucrats and politicians,hand in glove with the contractors. CAG reports have repeatedly highlighted this reality  in case of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and now possibly Madhya Pradesh. In fact, this was the very plank on which BJP came to power in Maharashtra. But Arun Jaitely seems to have no new ideas to offer here, except treading on the same path.

While it is clear that the government cannot abandon all incomplete projects, before it decides to spend more good money after already sunk costs on incomplete projects, it needs to halt more Major and Medium irrigation projects and undertake a credible, independent review of why the projects were incomplete for so long, what were the loop holes, what are the lessons learned from past mistakes, which projects are worth going ahead, in what form. And finally, which need  to be abandoned. Without doing such an exercise, the money allocated for incomplete projects is not going to help the farmers.

  1. Massive Support for AIBP Projects in Union Budget 2016 17 is unwarranted

Rs 86,500 Crores over 5 years is a massive amount. Will it be able to ensure promised Irrigation? Which are these AIBP Projects? Why do they need so much support from the Center? How have they performed till now? Where are they located? Is this expenditure wise?

Here is a snapshot of some of the 89 AIBP Projects, maximum of which, 13, come from Maharashtra. Maharashtra has had enough bad publicity following the Dam Scam but more importantly, it now has a Chief Minister, also from BJP, who openly stated in the State Assembly on July 21, 2015 that “We have built Large dams everywhere without thinking of feasibility or water availability” and that “Large Dams are not the road ahead”. Devendra Fadanvis wisely separated Large Dams from actual Irrigation and said: “We pushed large dams, not irrigation, this has to change”.[2] He has spearheaded a considerably successful program that focuses on small scale interventions for harvesting and recharging water known as Jal Yukta Shivar Yojana.

With this context, it is ironic and deeply troubling that maximum Large Irrigation Projects under AIBP come from Maharashtra. The name “Accelerated Irrigation Benefit” is also ironic as many of these projects have been going on for over 2-3 decades, have seen huge costs escalations, corruption charges, question marks about their viability, desirability, optimality, quality and final effectiveness.

Out of 149 AIBP Projects across the country, 89 projects are active, out of which 46 projects have been prioritized in the Union Budget. 23 Priority I Projects are to be completed by 2016-17 and additional 23 Priority II Projects are to be completed by 2019-20. Of these 46 Projects, maximum 13 projects come from Maharashtra.

A brief snapshot of some AIBP Projects in Maharashtra:

No. Project District Issue
1.                      Tillari Interstate Project Sindhudurg Based in hilly tracts of Western Ghats, highly unviable project, very low irrigation efficiency, terrain not suitable for large dams, Protests, Land Acquisition problems, 
2.                      Bembla Major Project[3] Yavatmal Huge Corruption Charges, Work ongoing since last 24 years. High cost escalations. Cracked canal Lining due to poor quality work. Enquiry ordered against Contractor for substandard work.
3.                      Tarali Major Irrigation Project Satara Whistle Blower of Maharashtra Dam Scam, then-Serving Chief Engineer Mr. Vijay Pandhare inspected construction of Tarali Project and stated that compressive strength of all 66 cores of the dam is as low as 42% when a difference in core strength by 1-2% is considered serious. This indicates corruption, use of less cement and institutionalised ill-intent. He officially wrote letter against these happenings. No action taken.
4.                      Dhom Balkawadi Satara Contract of Canal works given to a close relative of Ajit Pawar, Former Deputy CM and Minister of Water Resources. Several tendering lacuna exposed by officials.
5.                      Arjuna Medium Project Ratnagiri Massive cost and time escalations, unviable project in hilly terrain, corruption charges, rehabilitation issues not settled.

In addition to these, cost escalations of Lower Wardha, Lower Panzara, Nandur Madhyameshwar II (which will need 3 dams in the upstream) are also well known. (Link to  all projects in References below)

Across the country, but more sharply so in Maharashtra, Large Irrigation Projects have not automatically meant increased irrigated area, which is what the farmer needs. SANDRP has shown with official data that 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.[4] There are several reasons for this.

1.jpg

Above: Canal irrigated area declining in the country Source: SANDRP

2

 Above: Groundwater dominates Irrigation in India, not dams and canals Source: IWMI

If Large Dam approach delivered all that it promised, then Maharashtra, with the largest number of large dams in the country would have had the highest irrigated area.  The actual picture is the opposite. Maharashtra has the lowest irrigated area in the country at about 18%. This is not a coincidence. As the dam scam highlighted, more large projects with complicated, ever-changing plans, far away offices and opaque funding mechanisms meant that local people had no clue about what was happening, leaving doors open for the unholy nexus of Babus, Contractors and Engineers to eat away public funds, without ensuring irrigation. Recent example is when the Maharashtra Government told the Hon High Court that they have resolved all of the financial backlog in areas like Marathwada and Vidarbha,  but the PHYSICAL backlog remains nearly the same. So is money for large irrigation projects an answer in this scenario?

While three major projects from Vidarbha (Bawanthadi, Bembla and Lower Wardha) included in AIBP will receive huge support from the Center, the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) faces some of the most serious charges of corruption, cost and time escalations, as highlighted by a series of government appointed committees and even CAG. Jan Manch, an NGO from  Vidarbha which was instrumental in exposing the scam clearly stated that problems of projects here run deeper. Money is not an easy fix.

So why are the same projects being pushed in the name of farmers when it is demonstrated in Maharashtra that farmers are NOT benefiting from these projects? Cynics would point this out as another Jumlaa! Again, in the same state, the power of small scale water harvesting structures and people’s participation have shown how quickly things can change. Maharashtra still needs to complete Anti-Corruption Bureau Inquiry against several Large Dams, it needs to work on an Integrated State Water Plan and, as per orders of the Hon High Court, it can undertake new Projects only as per the provisions of this plan, it needs to take transparent and credible action regarding its own enquiry reports, which includes Special Investigation Team Report, CAG Report on Irrigation Projects dated 2013, etc. Unless all these steps are taken, and when small scale interventions are demonstrating their impacts, what is the logic behind putting huge public resources on the same approach?

Projects in other states like Sardar Sarovar, Narmada Sagar, Omkareshwar and Maheshwar Projects in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have not resettled the oustees and has used repressive mechanism to still fill the dams. It has been rapped by the Courts. Local communities in Manipur have been opposing dams there and have gone to the National Green Tribunal against Thaubal Dam.

In this context, maximum allocation of funds for Large Irrigation Projects in the Union Budget is clearly, neither convincing nor beneficial to farmers.

Other Schemes included under PMKSY with budgeted expenses for 2016-17 are

  • Har Khet ko Pani: Rs 500 Crores
  • Per Drop more crop: Rs 2340 Crores
  • Integrated Watershed Management: Rs 1500 Crores
  1. Some Positive water related steps in the Budget:
  • A major program for sustainable management of GW with allocation of Rs 6000 Crores and proposed for multilateral finding: Although the amount budgeted is hardly comparable to AIBP Projects, when contribution of groundwater in irrigation is much larger than surface water! We do not really need World Bank funding for this, we should be able to do this on our own.
  • A dedicated Long -term Irrigation Fund will be created in NABARD with initial corpus of Rs 20,000 Cores. Unfortunately, NABARD has no specific social and environmental policies and has been funding projects without attention to the key governance issues.
  • 5 lakh farm ponds and dug wells in rain fed areas and 10 lakh compost pits through MNEREGA.
  • Allocation for MNREGA is Rs 38500 crores, in reality this is much less than the actual demand and also less than what was actually spent last year. Last year, the actual spending on the programme was Rs 41,169 crore. The additional spending of Rs 6,470 crore is the pending liability and if adjusted the actual allocation in 2016-17 drops to Rs 32,030 crore—less than what was allocated in 2015-16. MNREGA allocation should have been higher.
  • Organic farming to be promoted: Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana 5 lakh acres under organic farming in 3 years with allocation of around Rs 412 crores. While more areas under organic farming is welcome, the target is more un-ambitious and allocation most meager. As Jayapal Reddy (Secy, confederation of kisan organisations) says we need aid for increasing carbon content in soil all across India.
  • Incentives for enhancement of Pulse production. Rs 500 Crores under National Food Security Mission to pulses. Districts covered increased to 622. This is a specifically encouraging step taken as Pulse Farming is mostly rainfed, require low fertilizer inputs, contributes to protein security, is climate friendly. We spent about Rs 15,000 Crores this year to import pulses and a focused plan for procurement and assured MSP will be of a great help. But the FM could have been much more ambitious here. A similar scheme was needed for oilseeds too.
  • Access to markets is critical for farmer incomes. Unified Agri Marketing Scheme has been announced where a common e-platform will be developed for 585 regulated wholesale markets. Amendments in APMC Acts are a prerequisite for joining. On the 14th April Birthday of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Unified Platform dedicated to Nation.
  • Revised norms of assistance under National Disaster Response Fund in April 2015.
  • Special focus on adequate and timely flow of credit to farmers. Against target of 8.5 Lakh Crores in 2015 16, the target of agri credit 2016-17 will be Rs 9 lakh Crores.
  • Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana providing greater cover against natural calamities at a low premium. Provision of Rs 5500 Crores in Budget 2016-17. However, the amount originally estimated to cover all farmers was Rs 17,600 crore. Why this lower allocation?
  1. Where are the Rivers?

In NDA’s first budget in 2014-15, when Ganga Arati and rhetoric on Ganga cleaning were at their peak, the Finance Minister had said during his budget speech: “ Rivers form the lifeline of our country. They provide water not only for producing food for the multitudes but also drinking water.” [5]

This year however, there is no mention of Rivers, not even Ganga. However, Namami Gange Plan/ National Ganga Plan has been allocated Rs 2250 Crores in the year 2016-17. The plan itself remains unclear. A plan based on Sewage Treatment Plants alone does not hold promise for Ganga with Rs 2000 Crores budgetary support, or Rs 20,000 Crores, like the money we have spent in the past years, corresponding to declining water quality of the river.

Inland Waterways Plan: The much-talked about Plan pushed by Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Mr. Nitin Gadkari would be getting around 350 Crores in 2016-17 as the combined budget for Sagaramala (Ports project) and Inland Waterways is pitched at 800 Crores and Sagarmala is budgeted at 450 Crores. Inland Waterways Program is being pushed without a thought being given to rivers in which they will operate. It is raising some very crucial questions, elaborated here: Digging Our Rivers’ Graves?[6]

Interlinking of Rivers Plan: The Plan has not been mentioned in the budget and the scheme does not feature in the further discussions. However, the Center is pursuing the project, disregarding ecological cost, social costs, financial costs and interstate conflicts.

It looks like Budget 2016-17 has no special announcements for rivers. However, plans like 100 Urban Rejuvenation Mission (Amrut and 100 Smart Cities) have been allocated a massive Rs 7296 Crores this FY. Projects like Smart Cities, Highways Project, Inland Waterways all have a strong link and impact on life support systems like rivers and these needed to be seriously addressed. India has no policy for Urban Rivers, and this has meant that rivers are common grounds for encroachment, pollution and extraction, leading to their destruction, like the Ganga, among others.

  1. Environment in Union Budget 2016-17

While the Environment Minister was one of the first Ministers to official hail Union Budget as “Visionary”, it is a bit sad to see that Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) does not feature in the list of Important Ministries annexed to Finance Minister’s Speech, nor does a single Scheme from MoEF and CC feature in the list of Important schemes.

MoEF and CC gets a slightly higher budget than the massively slashed budget for the past two years. However, as Down to Earth has pointed out, there is a hitch here: “The Budget document shows that allocations to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) have continued to rise, from Rs 1,681.60 crore in last year’s budget to Rs 2,250.34 crore in 2016-17. But most of this Rs 570-crore increase has come in the form of planned revenue expenditure (salary and other operational expenses), which has risen by Rs 540 crore to Rs 1,944.75 crore this year. This leaves an increase of only Rs 30 crore divided between planned capital expenditure estimates (expenditure on schemes and programmes) and non-planned estimates. In fact, planned capital expenditure saw a dip in comparison to actual expenditure undertaken during fiscal year 2014-15.”[7]

Some Climate Change initiates like National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), have seen an increased allocation. Of the Rs 180 Crores for Climate Change initiatives, Climate Change Action Programme (CCAP) has been allotted Rs 30 crore, the National Mission on Himalayan Studies Rs 50 crore and the National Adaptation Fund Rs 100 crore. According to Down to Earth, “While this is more than the Rs 160 crore allocated last year, there is no provision to cover the revised estimates of total expenditure of Rs 136.79 crore for the CCAP and Rs 115 crore for the National Adaptation Fund.”

There has been an upward spike in the National Clean Energy Fund, constituted mainly by Coal  Peat & lignite Cess, which has seen increase from Rs 50 to 100 Rs/tonne in 2014-15, further to 200 Rs/tonne is 2015-16 to 400 Rs/tonne in 2016-17. It is reported that it is this fund which will be support Inland Waterways Project, which is likely to destroy our remaining rivers. It will be hugely ironical if Clean Energy Fund levied on coal because of its environmental impact is used for Inland transport of Flyash and Coal from Rivers, as envisioned in the Inland Waterways Plan!

Budget of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has also been increased considerably from Actual 2014-15: Rs 515 Crores, Revised Estimates 2015-16: Rs 262 Crores and Budgeted Expenditure of 2016-17 at 5036 Crores.

~

All in all, the massive thrust and support for large dam and canal network which has not delivered in past remains one of the most problematic parts of the Budget. The focus of farmers, encouragement to pulse farmers, increased decentralized procurement, increased Clean Environment Cess, increased allocations (marginal) to MoEF and CC and CC initiatives are welcome steps. Finally, a budget is as good as its implementation. A look at achievements of the last year indicates that that several schemes are still listed as under progress. While the aim of increasing farmers’ incomes by double in 2022 sounds very strong and positive, it does remind one of the BJP’s election promised of ensuring 50% profit over costs to farmers, unmet till date and now abandoned. Agricultural growth rate has not achieved more than 4% in any five year plans, and this target will need about 15% Compound Annnual Growth rate in farmers’ income, that looks nearly impossible.

It is also sobering to note, as Devinder Sharma says, that in 17 states of the country, farmers average monthly income is 1666 Rs. Doubling it in five years would mean 3332 Rs a month, nearly the same as five years back, if adjusted against inflation!

  • Parineeta Dandekar, Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP

 END NOTES:

State-wise details on AIBP Projects here: http://mowr.gov.in/writereaddata/1-1-1_Completing%20priority%20projects.pdf

[1] http://thewire.in/2016/03/01/agriculture-sector-needs-more-than-just-income-security-for-farmers-23273/

[2] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/we-pushed-large-dams-not-irrigation-cm-fadnavis-assembly-speech/

[3] http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/proposed-in-1992-bembla-irrigation-project-still-incomplete-112101802012_1.html

[4] https://sandrp.in/irrigation/Failure_of_Big_Irrigation_Projects_and_Rainfed_Agriculture_0510.pdf

[5] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/rivers-and-water-in-union-budget-2014-15/

[6] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/digging-our-rivers-graves/

[7] http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/budget-2016-17-loose-change-for-climate-change-52973

CAG Report · Maharashtra

Clean chit by the Chitale SIT Report on Maha Irrigation Scam?

 Ye jo Public hai, Ye sab Jaanti hai!

The much debated SIT Committee Report headed by Dr. Madhavrao Chitale was finally tabled in the State Assembly on the last day of the Assembly in the evening on the 11th June 2014, reading it one gets a feeling of déjà vu. Following the uproar due to unprecedented dam scam in 2012, GOM constituted Special Investigation Team (SIT) on the last day of the promise, on 31 December 2012. Members of the Special Investigation Team (SIT), chaired by Dr. Madhavrao Chitale include AKD Jadhav, retd. IRS official and also the past Chairperson of MWRRA, Dr. Krishna Lavekar, Retd. Agriculture Commissioner, GOM and Dr. V. M Ranade, Retd. Secy, Command Area Development, WRD, GOM.

The committee report was submitted in March 2014, after some extensions and was kept under wraps for past three months by the government possibly keeping the Loksabha elections in mind. Not that it mattered as Congress and NCP fared terribly in Maharashtra, winning just 6 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra, and the irrigation scam seems to have had a massive role in this. Now the government, especially NCP’s former and current water resources ministers Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare are claiming that they have got a clean chit from the report, keeping the State Assembly elections in mind.

These claims will not help the political parties. On the other hand, they are likely to harm their political prospects.

But first let us look at some basic aspects of the report. Does it really give a clean chit to the political parties? Is it above shortcomings? Will it play an important role in overhauling dam-centric water management in Maharashtra?

TORs of SIT The TORs of the SIT, laid down by the Water Resources Department of the GOM were as follows:

  1. Investigate irrigation potential created, actual irrigated area (pratyaksha sinchit kshetra) and water use for non-irrigation use. In the actual irrigated area, find the irrigated area by wells, farm ponds, water conservation department and water resource department
  2. To ascertain if the revised administrative approvals given to projects by Irrigation Development Corporations (IDCs) are according to the existing rules and regulations.
  3. Investigate the reasons for delay in completing projects
  4. Investigate reasons behind change in scope from original administrative approval and increase in cost due to change in scope
  5. Suggests measures to increase the usefulness of Lift Irrigation Schemes (LIS)
  6. Suggest ways for quality enhancement in WRD
  7. Suggest ways so that project is completed in said time span and costs
  8. Suggest measures to increase irrigated area
  9. If irregularity found in the inquiry, investigate it, fix responsibility and suggest suitable action

Are TORs inadequate? The Chairperson Dr. Chitale has reiterated over and over again, in face of requests and submissions from media, civil society, petitions filed in court (there are at this moment about 23 PILs (Public Interest Litigation) filed in Bombay High Court about irrigation projects between 2009-2013), that it was not a part of their mandate to look at the modus operandi of the corruption involved in the scam, in the process of calling tenders and accepting contracts. As per section 9.8 of  SIT report, issues it has NOT looked at include: Misuse of clause 38 in tenders for addition of component in the main tender without re tendering, Sanctioning mobilization advances without appropriate justification, Manipulating estimates for accepting tenders, inclusion of unjustified and unrelated additional expenses and Dam Designs made by contractors. The Committee says that these irregularities are outside their TORs but there is ‘scope for doubt’ and the “government would need to investigate into this separately within the legal boundaries.” This is not true and the SIT should have gone into these issues, particularly when it has found ‘scope for doubt’ in these issues because per se the TORs are broad enough to include these.

The committee also says that going into these would have been difficult due to absence of man power, resources and time at the committee’s disposal. However, looking at the centrality of these issues in the Dam Scam, due to which the committee was set up in the first place, and the respect Dr. Chitale garners in the WRD (Water Resources Dept) and political circles, it would not have been impossible to get the TORs modified if at all necessary and very easy to get additional resources. But there is no evidence of the committee asking anything in this regard, indicating that this was not even attempted by the committee.

Apart from that, the committee could have addressed many of these issues being in their TORs as corruption, political-influence and contractor-led processes have affected nearly all the aspects covered in the TORs. Not looking at these issues has resulted in a situation where Dr. Chitale says one of the main reasons for cost escalation of projects has been rise in market prices. Now consider this: costs of Kondane dam increased from Rs 57 crores to Rs 614 cores in just six months, and market prices had nothing to do with this. There are several such examples, where cost escalations, time increase, technical problems had nothing to do with the issues looked at by the committee. The  exclusion of political and corruption issues have affected the quality of conclusions and recommendations of the report.

The committee notes that it relaxed the TORs in accepting submissions from organizations and NGOs, keeping the bigger picture in mind. Strange to see that committee did not think of doing so in issues related to corruption and political links.

CONCLUSIONS OF SIT:

Some of the good conclusions:

  • Environmental and Forest Violations: The report says that there are 2 projects without EC (Environment Clearance) and 31 projects without FC (Forest Clearance) and which did not get FC for more than 5 years. Without clearance, work on some projects stopped midway or dragged on, resulting in a dead investment. If work was started only after permissions, these expenses could have been avoided and money instead could have been spent only on those projects with permissions. The SIT has recommended strict action against officials who floated tenders and issued work orders without these clearances, which is welcome.
  • It has also recommended action to be taken against officials responsible for starting working without acquisition of land for the project as well as canals. (9.3.2)
  • Initiating work without detailed design: Recommends action should be taken against the officials. (9.3.3)
  • Initiating work in the absence of finance: Committee recommends Strict action against IDC, Chief Auditor and Executive Director of the IDC (9.3.4.) which started work without requisite finances.
  • River plugging without creation of irrigation potential: There are around 23 projects where the river plugging (ghal bharni) was done but there was no irrigation potential created then or even two years later. Committee recommends strict action against officials.
  • Projects with serious faults, suspicious transactions: Committee recommends that projects with multiple flawed parameters should be checked by an independent committee and recommends action against Executive Director for the respective IDC. Such projects include: Ujani, Krishna Koyna LIS, Seena Medium Project, Bembla Project, Lower Painganga, Jigaon, Kurka Wadoda Project (TIDC), Sulawade, Bodhawad Praisar, Lower Tapi, Mukatinagar LIS, Manjra, Vishnupuri (Godavari Barrages), Brahmangaon LIS, Upper Godavari Project, Krishna Marathawada project
  • The committee also notes serious irregularities in the following projects: Dhamani (Kolhapur) Kukadi (Seena Tunnel), Jigaon (Buldana, Kondane (Thane) and Chanera (Thane) and recommends special attention and investigation into these projects.

But many conclusions are flawed, unacceptable and some are even illegal:

  • Irrigated area in the State: The report relies only on data collected by WRD. It also states that WRD collects seasonal field data. However, this is not true. The WRD currently has no system in place for admeasuring irrigated area. Irrigation Status Reports and Benchmarking reports are also not available for the past three years. Chitale Committees’ conclusions based on data from WRD are not reliable.
  • TOR 9: Investigation and fixing responsibility The committee holds the entire state machinery including the Planning and Finance Department for not providing enough checks and balances on the work of WRD and classifies most blunders as “systemic errors” (9.04). While fixing clear responsibilities of these sectors could have helped, sweeping generalizations and repeated conclusion of “systemic errors” ensure escape route to all offenders.
  • The punishments are classified into mild and strict punishments, but even strict punishment is limited to departmental inquiries. The committee has also taken the circuitous route of not naming the offenders, but alluding to their posts and duration. Even this is extremely vague. So while the committee refuses to look at most contentious issues, it also refuses to name offenders and also does not name political hand behind the decisions. It does not seem to be an investigation team in any way. Also, when fixing responsibility is a part of the TOR, the committee cannot shirk from the responsibility and state that it will not name offenders. This is a public issue and committee does not have the privilege of overriding the TORs for its idea of leniency.
  • The committee says that investigation into irregularities indicates that major driving force has been stress to reduce backlog, pressure from ‘local’ political leadership, centralized decision making in the IDCs and conscious ignorance of rules and social responsibility. This lenient generalization washes any responsibility from the political leadership of the state and the contractor-engineer nexus.
  • Section 10.9 of the report states that the blunders committed by decision makers were not intentional and were mostly ‘errors of judgment’.
  • MWRRA: Committee reports that 12 Projects are without MWRRA permission. Mild action is recommended against responsible Executive Director. (9.4) While the committee recommends action even against Finance and revenue departments, it does not mention any strict action against MWRRA, which, as pointed out by the CAG Report 13-14 cleared 189 projects during 2007-2013 though the State Water Resource Plan, based on which the projects were required to be cleared, was not prepared, violating the MWRRA Act (2005). Significantly, CAG mentions that: “Authority also failed to perform its role as a regulator as envisaged in the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005.”
  • On functioning of IDCs The report states that in 2004, at a meeting of the governing council and IDC members, it was decided that the rights of giving Revised Administrative Approval (RAA) will be given to the Chairperson (WRD Minister). Only a few members of the governing council were present for this meeting. The SIT notes that while the IDCs should have been going towards decentralization, this was a regressive step towards centralization and concentration of power and authority, however, the committee does not suggest ANY action against the Chairman!
  • As per a 2003 GR (Government Resolution) regarding Krishna, Godavari and Vidarbha IDC, all rights to provide RAA were given to the Chairperson and Executive Director by the Governing Council of the IDCs, thus concentrating power (and also scope of corruption related to RAA hikes).
  • CAG Report (2013-14) says regular monthly meetings of the Governing Council of IDCs were not held, in violation of Maharashtra Irrigation Development Corporation Acts. The Chairman (WRD Minister) is directly responsible for this. But the SIT Report does not mention this!

Action Suggested with respect to Specific Projects:

GoseKhurd: There should be action against respective officials who did not visit the canal works due to which concretization was to be done again. The SIT does not suggest any departmental inquiry or anything new other than the recommendations of the Mendhegiri committee report.

Barrages on Godavari: Several question marks have been raised about these projects, their utility and safety. Kulkarni Committee appointed to look into irregularities has come up with strong measures against defaulting officials. But rather than upholding Kulkarni Committee’s recommendations, the SIT asks for constituting one more committee to look into the irregularities!

Illegal suggestion of SIT Shockingly the committee says: (Page 210) for Human Project Forest and Forest Clearance was incorporated in project tender and recommends “it would have been good if a separate tender was issued for this” This is very disturbing. The entire process of Forest Clearance happens through the State Government Forest Department and there is NO role for any other agent here. Any such role indicates violation of the Forest Conservation Act, and SIT recommends precisely such a violation!

Similarly, Environmental Appraisal is supposed to be an unbiased process looking at the social and environmental impact of projects. There is again no scope for tendering here. The SIT’s recommendations in this regard are illegal.

WHY THE PEOPLE OF MAHARASHTRA WILL REJECT THIS REPORT

After pursuing the 600 pager main report and its 32 pager Executive summary made by WRD[1], and keeping in mind all the other available information, one is left with little doubt that Chitale Committee has not only refused to unravel the truth, but has tried to protect political parties.

The unprecedented Dam scam in Maharashtra highlighted massive corruption in tendering process, a collusion of politicians contractors, engineers and bureaucrats, shockingly poor quality of work endangering lives of people in the downstream, a huge number of incomplete projects, nonexistent increase in irrigated area, etc. Some of the main whistle blowers of this scam included Anjali Damaniya of erstwhile IAC, organisations like Shramik Mukti Sangathana and SANDRP and most notable, Vijay Pandhare,  who was then the serving Chief Engieer of META, WRD. Mr. Pandhare’s letters to Chief Minister, WRD Officials, his engagement with the media etc., was remarkable and helped people of Maharashtra in understanding the scope and impact of the scam. In the past too, reports from forthright officials like Kulkarni, Vadnere and Upase had exposes parts of the scam and raised public awareness. This is apart from the systemic problems of dam-based water management in Maharashtra on which many individuals and organisations like Lokabhimukh Pani Dhoran Manch, NAPM, etc have been working for many years.

Considering this, people of Maharashtra are not going to look kindly upon any vague report that gives escape route to corrupt politicians, engineers and bureaucrats, without seizing the opportunity available to it. Unfortunately Chitale Committee Report (referred to as Chitale report) does just that. 

In fact, in the minds of people of Maharashtra who have followed this scam and listened to people in power insulting the plight of the common man in the absence of water (like Ajit Pawar’s remark about urinating in the dry dams or cutting water supply of villages that do not vote for NCP),  the report has seriously discredited Dr.  Madhavrao Chitale and the team of past bureaucrats themselves for:

  • not being clear and forthright about the main causes of the problems,
  • basing their data on the same WRD which has proved to be incorrect,
  • not seizing the historic opportunity available which could have altered the course of the Maharashtra irrigation through exemplary recommended actions,
  • not questioning the merits of mega irrigation projects which have been eating into Maharashtra’s public expenditure, concentrating water and power, impacting communities and ecosystems without benefits,
  •  being shockingly protective of the political class that was at the driving seat of this scam at public expense, by ignoring proofs against political leaders and parties even when it was available to the committee,
  • by maintaining escape routes in the report through which political leaders can escape
  • mollycoddling most of the issues as ‘systemic failures’ when it was their responsibility to fix precise responsibility and there were specific known culprits and institutions,
  • making some suggestions which are in fact illegal.

The committee shows how protective it is of the status quo in irrigation department when it talks of possible negative impact of exemplary punishments (and even departmental inquiries!) on the morale of WRD officials and says that irregularities other than financial ones are due to systemic failures and a large scale investigation into these will affect the morale of the officials. What will really affect the morale of good officials in WRD is NOT fixing responsibility on the guilty, thus maintaining a poor public image of the entire department, while putting the burden of political decisions exclusively on WRD officials. This will foster the feeling that no one can touch the political class and hence, officials better toe the line. This is sending a completely wrong signal.

All Political Parties in it together: While members of BJP are saying that the SIT Report indicts some leaders like Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatakare, these parties too are not stating upfront that there are serious flaws in the report & the projects, processes and systems the report was supposed to investigate and that neither the report, nor the flawed projects can be accepted. Neither do they raise the basic questions of the merits or lack of merits of having hundreds of irrigation projects without benefits at such huge expenses, and mostly unassessed social and environmental costs.

Nor do they talk about the real changes needed with the Water Resource Department, MWRRA (Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority), IDCs (Irrigation Development Corporations like the Konkan, Tapi, Kirshna Valley & Godavari basin) and related government machinery, to make them accountable, transparent and participatory.

The reasons for this are clear. The opposition parties are not untouched in this scam. Right now, they want to score political brownie points through the chaos while not aiming for any lasting changes or suggesting measures in the interest of people of Maharashtra. It should also be remembered that many of the current 600+ on-going irrigation projects under investigation were initiated at the time of Shiv Sena- BJP rule in the state.

The report protects political parties: While it has been shown by several reports, individuals and organisations that many decisions affecting projects were driven by financial and political interests, the report does not utter a word about political influence on WRD officials.

It should also be remembered Dr. Chitale, through his various roles as Chairman of Maharashtra Irrigation Commission, Secretary Water Resources for Government of Maharashtra & India, Secretary General of International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, Chairperson of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of River Valley and Hydropower Projects MoEF[2] has been entirely pro dam in his approach. He has never questioned the basic need and merits of large dams, despite their poor performance, multiple safety issues, environmental and social impacts, hazy and unattained benefits, etc. His pro-dam attitude is very convenient for and coincides with government of Maharashtra’s push for large dam agenda: pushing dams at each and every possible location, without a thought about their performance and impacts. As a result, as pointed out by CAG report 2013, in June 2013, WRD has as many as 601 projects under execution with estimated balance cost of Rs 82,609.64 crore which is nine times the capital grant of the Water Resources Department for the year 2012-13.But the Chitale Committee Report does not say a word about  this.

The report protects the Central Government In sanctioning, monitoring and financing irrigation projects in Maharashtra, there is a huge role for several arms of the Central Government, including Union Ministry of Water Resources, Central Water Commission, Planning Commission and Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Thousands of crores of money comes from the Center to this state each year. The scam could go on unhindered also due to the failure of these agencies. For example, large irrigation projects are funded through Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme that is supposed to be monitored by CWC and Planning Commission. The Planning Commission is supposed to release first installment only after projects have all the clearances and every next installment only after previous installment has been used as per required norms and necessary results achieved. The SIT should have looked into the role of these agencies and their failures, but by not doing so, SIT has again favoured status quo and protected these bodies.

Dr Chitale, Ignorance of law is not a valid legal defense In the most crucial section of the report, dealing with fixing responsibility in grating Revised Administrative Approvals (RAAs), the report says that the Irrigation Development Corporation (IDC) does not have the right to sanction RAA and the Managing Director and CAFO (Audit and Finance Officer) of the IDC did not bring this to the notice of the IDC and hence the responsibility lies with them. In addition it says that: “Permission of Finance Department is needed for issuing RAA and it seems improbable that the GOM does not know this. This clearly implies that although the committee knows that Chairperson of the IDC knows this, being a part of the GOM, it is not ready to say so, shifting the responsibility on the officials.

In the very next point on action suggested, however, the report says: “In cases where expense made exceed approval, the Executive Director of IDC did not have power to grant RAA. CAFO and Executive Director of IDC are responsible for not bringing this fact to the attention of the Governing Council. If they had brought this to the notice of the governing council of the IDCthen responsibility comes to members and Chairperson. GOM should take appropriate decision in this regard.”

This is the only place where the SIT mentions the Chairperson of the IDC (Water Resources Minister) in the entire report!

This is possibly the most dishonest part of the report. The committee implies that WRD Minister of the State not knowing the norms of WRD is fine, and the responsibility for minister’s ignorance should lie with the officials. But, ignorance of laws and orders is not an excuse for violating laws. It is clear that SIT should have firmly indicted the WRD Ministers and recommended strong action against them. The SIT has done nothing of this sort and has transferred the responsibility on the WRD officials, also keeping a clever escape route for the politicians. Sunil Tatkare is already exploiting this escape route. (Interview)

This is shocking, blatant and unacceptable.

RECOMMENDATIONS OF SIT The Chitale Committee has made following recommendations, translated by SANDRP from original Marathi:

1. Through Remote Sensing (RS) find the actual siltation of major, medium and some minor projects

2. Cities and industries should treat their sewage and effluents to 100% level to reduce non-irrigation water demand

3. Water charges should be levied on wells in command which have not been handed over to WUAs

4. Performance evaluation of minor irrigation projects and recommendations for betterment

5. In cases where perennial crops like sugarcane are taken on major projects and canals their area should ascertained by RS and water charges levied accordingly.

6. Revenue and Agriculture Department is causing extreme delay in collating irrigated area. This needs to be looked into urgently.

7. In depth assessment of why water use is less in Konkan, Amravati and Marathwada and undertake works accordingly

8. Study through MERI: why has carrying capacity of canals decreased?

9. Do not declare irrigation potential created unless distribution systems are in place and ascertained

10. Proper account of irrigated area should be kept with the Agriculture Commissioner

11. Any fraudulent use of non-irrigation water should be checked and detailed audit published every year

12. Methods of collecting data for Economic Survey Report should be improved.

13. Data in benchmarking report should be collated at project level and not Division level as it is done now.

14. The actual cost of projects (original cost + escalation) should be considered as Administrative Approval cost and if cost of the project exceeds 12% of this only then it should be considered for Revised Administrative Approval (RAA) according to CWC guidelines

15. In RAA while finding the benefit ratio, the expenses should be modified as per the escalation

16. WRD needs to have its own code of conduct and rulebook

17. LIS Projects should have a separate rate list, separate from the contractor

18. The WRD should publish escalation rates based on rates every year

19. Construction work should be audited at various stages.

20. After the project construction has been completed, the project should be handed to the management division, WUAs, distributaries work should be done asap (As soon as possible)

21. Some period before and after the project should be designated as project related time

22. Before clearing any further LIS, it should be checked whether it has complete financial support and its electricity expenses should also be considered

23. Separate maintenance fund for pumps, rising mains and other LIS equipment should be considered

24. Rather than giving water to PA’s through LIS, smaller WUAs should be formed and water should be given through smaller LIS

25. Manual for LIS needs to be developed which includes all aspects of LIS management, implementation and command area development

26. Quality control parameters for WRD Department are now out of date and new ones should be developed

27. Damaged and dysfunctional equipment on states dams should be immediately made functional and it should be seen if any changes in these are needed

28. A committee should be formed under MERI to implement and manage the recommendation of the Dam Safety Organization

29. Special training session on Colgrout masonry should be organized by META and only the certified employees should be used for overlooking related works.

30. Proper management of projects as per methods like PERT or CPM should be undertaken at Project formulation stage. Activity time considered should be from the start of initial work to the initiation of irrigation from the project

31. Limits of the five year plan should also be laid on project

32. Work on large projects needs to be broken down in smaller pieces and projects with irrigation potential higher than 1 lakh ha should be termed as Mega projects.

33. Investment made for non-irrigation use should be clearly indicated as such

34. Irrigation potential of the project should be adjusted as per the water used for non-irrigation uses.  Requisite area should be reduced from irrigation potential of the project. Not doing so bloats the irrigation potential created.

35. A separate cell should be set up for coordinating mandatory clearances in IDCs (Irrigation Development Corporations)

36. Help should be taken from Social scientists, NGOS etc in rehabilitation, water distribution and WUA formation

37. Completion report of the project should be prepared in which the responsible officer writes the history of the project and looks at future. A separate cell for this need to be created

38. Separate set up for Project related survey and this should have responsibility of awareness creation in beneficiaries.

39. All IDCS should have separate rules as they have separate regional needs.

40. To achieve the scope and participation of IDCS, noted non-government representatives heading financial institutions/ orgnaistiaons, MLAs and MPs etc should be deputed. There should be a quorum for IDC decision making meetings.

41. Steps should be taken to make IDCs self-sufficient through things like fisheries sale, water charges for HEPs, the water charges should be deposited with the IDCs. This will encourage the IDCs

42. High tech and region specific irrigation methods should be used like drip, sprinkles, piped supply, cropping pattern and volumetric water supply norms.

Suggestions Offered: Can they improve the current situation? While some suggestions of the SIT are indeed good, they still continue with the same status quo,  doing tinkering here and there.  When there was a need for substantive increase in transparency, accountability, independent oversight and participation in WRD, the suggestions largely remain at the superficial level. They follow the same system that was so easily manipulated by the officials as well as politicians, while blacking out the affected communities as well as local stakeholders from the decision making processes.

As it was pointed out by several groups (Example: Manch, NAPM, SANDRP, experts like Pradeep Purandare) at the time of appointing the committee, there were several fundamental flaws in the appointment of the members, the TORs of the Committees, the powers it had to take any meaningful action against the guilty. It was clear from the outset, and also vindicated by the report that the SIT committee Report under Dr. Chitale mainly protects the political masters.

However, after witnessing and sometimes even bearing the burden of the irrigation scam and political interference in water management,the people of Maharashtra know how deep the roots of this scam go. They also understand that any report which the political parties use as an escape route is not credible. To that effect, the SIT Committee Report under the chairpersonship of Dr. Chitale will not help the political parties. Ye jo Public hai, ye sab jaanti hai…

Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[1] Exe Summary by WRD and not the SIT committee. Strangely committee report does not have an executive summary

[2] The EAC under the chairpersonship of Dr. Chitale gave environmental clearance to 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Project in Arunachal in 2002, which has been stalled for more than 2 years now for the want of comprehensive studies. When the EAC sanctioned the project, it was designed to release 6 cumec water for nearly 20 hours and suddenly 2000 cumeces for 2-4 hours to generate electricity, which would have disastrous impacts on downstream Assam. The environmental clearance and approval to this project caused a huge uproar and protests in downstream Assam and these are still continuing.

Maharashtra

Vijay Pandhare’s letter to Dr. Chitale: “Please fix responsibility of the irregularities”

It has been reported that the Special Investigation Team under the Chairpersonship of Dr. Madhavrao Chitale has submitted its 1300+ pages report on the Dam Scam and practically no increase in irrigated area in Maharashtra, to the Chief Minister.

Dr. Chitale has reportedly said that no political person has been named in the report, supposedly because it was not the mandate of his committee. In his words: “There was no question of mentioning the name of any minister or bureaucrat for the wrongdoings in irrigation sector as it was not permissible under the given guidelines. At the very beginning, it was made clear that findings will be very impersonal. The objective of the committee was never to engage in fault finding of any individual (politicians or bureaucrats) but rather larger concerns related to the systemic lapses that resulted in the cost overruns and allowed manipulation of rules,” 

This, though expected from Dr. Chitale, is entirely incorrect as the TORs to the SIT by the GOM, dated 31st Dec 2012 clearly mention 2.9: “If irregularity is found in investigations, the committee will fix responsibility and suggest further action.” in addition, the systemic lapses that have occured in Maharshtra have been sytematically abetted by many for personal gains. Not even attempting to fix the responsibility,is akin to giving a clean chit to the strong perpetrators.

The SIT report is not in the open domain as yet, but if it has indeed shied away from specifically naming guilty politicians, bureaucrats and engineers, then it is hugely problematic. The links between politicians, bureaucrats and engineers have been made clear by a number of whistle blowers of the irrigation scam at grave personal risks. The SIT had all the resources, the mandate, the time and the opportunity to investigate charges and radically influence Maharashtra’s irrigation sector. But right from the beginning, the SIT refused to look into matters of corruption, clearly indicating that it will not ‘dirty its hands’ and will go with the status quo, which suited the ruling government. Supporting Status Quo at such important juncture comes at a huge social cost. SIT’s composition as well as its stand was challenged by many, including SANDRP. (SANDRPs Press Release, Piece by Pradeep Purandare, New Reports, Pani Dhoran Manch PR)

One of the most significant whistle blowers of the Dam Scam, Vijay Pandhare, who was then the Chief Engineer of Irrigation Dept had written a scathing letter to Dr. Chitale in March 2013, when Chitale refused to investigate any evidence given by leader of opposition Vinod Tawde about corruption in the Irrigation sector.

This letter ( obtained and translated from Marathi into English by SANDRP) indicates Pandhare’s impassioned appeal to Dr. Chitale to investigate charges and fix responsibility as per the mandate of the committee.  Pandhare in fact says that: “If the SIT is going to be escapist about the issue of corruption, then it is better that you resign, listening to your inner voice, because such escapism would not be in the interest of the state.” He produces many evidences of wrong doings in the WRD. The scale of the problem described in the letter is staggering. We look forward to how these matters have been treated by the SIT Report.

Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

VIJAY PANDHARE WRITES TO DR. MADHAV CHITALE, MARCH 2013

 From: 

Vijay Balawant Pandhare

Chief Engineer,

Maharashtra Engineering Research Institute, Nashik, and

Member, State Technical Advisory Committee,

Nashik- 422004

 

Dt- 16th March 2013

To,

Shri. Madhavrav Chitale,

Chairman,

Special Investigation Team,

WALMI, Aurangabad

Subject- About inquiry into technical and financial discrepancies in Water Resources Department of Maharashtra

 

Respected Sir,

Regarding the subject sited above, it is learned through news reports of 6th March 2013 and through the broadcasts of Marathi news channels that, you have wrote to the Leader of Opposition Mr. Vinod Tawade stating your committee is not empowered to inquire officers and political representatives.[1]

In fact, while determining the mandate of your committee TORs explicitly mention “fixing the responsibility against any discrepancy and suggesting suitable action against it”.[2] The government has clearly mentioned in your mandate that “fix the responsibility against the discrepancy”. So, your stand that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) doesn’t have any investigating power is against this mandate. It is like Lord Ram deciding that he will not attack the evil spirit or will not oppose it. If you are not going to unmask these corrupt spirits through the special investigation team, would we have the moral right to seek respite from Lord Ram? Moderate and honest people like you are required to lead the bandwagon against such corrupt people and dishonest mentality. Such an opportunity is created because of the constitution of SIT. We believe that you would capitalize on it. ( Emphasis added, throughout the letter) The anarchy created in Water Resources Department is because of the non-functional office-bearers. If the officers would have been alert and selfless, such a catastrophic situation would have never come, however, it has been difficult in our times to see good officers rising through the ranks. It seems that picture would be very gloomy from here on. Therefore, it is your first responsibility to identify people who are responsible for such a situation, those who have created discrepancies and fix the responsibilities. After outlining the mandate, the state government has thrown a ball in your (SIT) court. Therefore, it will not be acceptable to adopt a stand which turns a blind eye towards all of these malpractices. The government has nowhere said that the committee has not investigative powers. The very name of the committee itself is a “Special”. Isn’t it contradictory to take up such a stand when the committee itself is called “Special Investigation Team” then? On the other hand, the committee should ask for complaints from all the people and investigate them all. But your stand seems to be something else altogether. Please don’t continue with that. (Emphasis added). There is no prohibition on any committee for accepting complaints from the people and collecting sufficient information pertaining to the investigation. If the committees like Vadnere, Kolwale, Mendhegiri etc. can determine the responsibilities on the defaulters, why can’t the SIT under Mr. Chitale?[3]

Earlier officers never took a firm stand against such malpractices which eventually culminated to degradation of Irrigation department. The responsibility of improving the situation has been entrusted with your team, otherwise, history will never forgive us. If the committee is going to be escapist about the issue of corruption, then it is better that you resign , listening to your inner voice, because such escapism would not be in the interest of the state. I can understand (although don’t justify) the attitude of political representatives about the scam, but honorable people like you need to take a strong stand to make the department disciplined. Im sure that escaping from this duty and saying that Pseical investigation team does not have the power to investigate is not something that your conscience would agree with. Despite that, your statement regarding Tawade’s letteris a clear indication that the team would shy away from such investigation. To improve the situation in Irrigation department, some surgical measures should be taken otherwise the financial crisis of the state would persist in the foreseeable future. I want to remind you that around 14-15 years back we personally met in Aurangabad and I had told you how pathetic and corrupt the administration has become. That time too, you had said that the political representatives have taken charge of everything and you were resigned in saying that it’s difficult to change the situation. But now the destiny has entrusted you with the responsibility to end these malpractices. We request you to please carry it out with the help of Mr. Ranade. It would be very unfortunate for Maharashtra if you are not going to fix the responsibilities against the observed malpractices, something which is clearly in the mandate of your team. If the projects are not getting completed even after 25-30 years, isn’t it a serious blunder by the policy makers? Shouldn’t we fix the responsibility ? Is it not sinful to float tenders, make payments against inflated costs, financially weaken the state and push people into drought situations? If you’re not going to prevent such practices, then who will? I was extremely surprised to learn about your stand. If you really want to serve for the betterment of Maharashtra, then taking a strong stand against such practices so that nobody would dare to tread this path is very much expected from you. If we all decide, then we will have “Ram-rajya” in our country. But if we are moving away from Lord Ram’s ideals, we have no turn to him for the help. (Emphasis added)

I’m enlisting the discrepancies that I observed while working in Water Resources Department. Kindly investigate them and fix the responsibilities against the defaulters so that nobody would ever dare to indulge in such practices.

Discrepancy No. 1-

Without investigating or envisaging properly, irrigation development corporations have approved budgets with inflated costs and have granted tenders at higher price to the contractors. This has resulted in wastage of billions of rupees of public funds. We request you to thoroughly investigate all the discrepancies and fix the responsibilities. So that, no political representative or contractor or engineer would ever indulge into it.  If no inquiry is conducted, these people would keep looting the state as well as nation with boosted confidence. That’s why the honest and selfless people should try to prevent such malpractices otherwise it is beyond doubt that our coming generations, our nation and the democracy will have a dark future.

For example, please note the projects in Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation-

  1. A.      Sulwade Lift Irrigation Scheme (Cost ₹ 2100 Cr)
  2. B.      Bodwad Lift Irrigation Scheme ( Cost ₹ 2200 Cr)
  3. C.      Prakasha-Burai Lift Irrigation Scheme (Cost ₹ 700 Cr)
  4. D.      Varangaon-talwel Lift Irrigation Scheme
  5. E.       Padmalay Lift Irrigation Scheme
  6. F.       Kurha-vadoda Lift Irrigation Scheme

Like these, thousands of tenders have been awarded. It is requested to permanently stop such cases.

Discrepancy No. 2

The projects that have been approved by respective development corporations have always witnessed increase in their scopes. You can find many such projects. White paper enlists such modifications under each scheme. Such modifications/ increments have been approved without giving proper thought to their impacts and hence these projects are bound to fail. Because, the projects which have been approved at inflated costs get less funds allocations and eventually results in the projects remaining incomplete for more than three decades and there is no way these projects would be complete in next 30 years either. Therefore, the officers and politicians who approved such changes should be held responsible for these discrepancies.

Discrepancy No.3-

The way in which each development corporation has cited their cost break-up would stun anyone. It is clear that the interests and the benefits of the contractors have been secured by employing multiple tricks. It has been a very common trend in Konkan and Vidarbh Irrigation Development Corporations. Other corporations are not an exception either. The episode of the inflated costs paid against the steel pipes in Jigaon Project Lift Irrigation Scheme is indeed well-known. Vidarbh Irrigation Development Corporation itself has cancelled ₹ 2900 Cr tenders because those were based on such inflated costs. We request the SIT to investigate such discrepancies in the budget of the said projects. To prevent such incidences from happening again, such incidences should be thoroughly investigated and defaulters must be brought to the book. Please investigate the cost sheets of following items-

  1. 1.       Hearting and casing items
  2. 2.       Pitching items
  3. 3.       Rising main and steel pipe items in lift irrigation schemes
  4. 4.       Radial gate fabrication rates
  5. 5.       Dewatering items, excessive dewatering
  6. 6.       Concrete and masonry items

The SIT should also probe the various reasons cited for increasing the costs.

Discrepancy No-4

There have been humongous discrepancies in the “C” grade tenders. In most of the cases, despite being “C” level tender, “EIRL”s of hundreds of thousands of rupees have been passed and even the claims have been settled too. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate all the EIRLs and claims against them from all the development corporations. The SIT should ask for information in a tabular form about all the EIRLs and respective settled claims from all the irrigation development corporations, and probe the serious cases. Otherwise there would be no check on such malpractices.  For example, I’m referring to the Nardawe project EIRL here. Despite being a “C” tender, KIDC (Kokan irrigation Development Corporation) has granted EIRLs worth ₹ 30-40 Cr. Moreover, it has also settled the claims for machinery idle charges without taking due permission from the state government. Due to less availability of funds, the contractors have made it a trend to show that their machinery have been idle on paper and have been receiving the idling charges. Big projects have been approved with administrative approvals and now idling charges are being paid citing the unavailability/ insufficiency of funds. Projects are incomplete for years because of unavailability of funds and according to price escalation clause of the tenders, hundreds of thousands of crores are being paid to the contractors. The situation is so grim that the actual expense incurred on work is marginal and that on price the escalation is multifold. For example, let’s see the Sulwade Lift Irrigation Scheme of Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation. Work order was granted 14 years ago. Because of unavailability of funds, ₹ 15 Cr have been spent on the actual work. However, during the same period, the price escalation has been of ₹ 700 Cr! There are many such projects which have not begun in last 14 years. The responsibilities of such agonizing planning must be fixed on responsible people.

Discrepancy No. 5-

The earthen dams which are being constructed under B-1 tender, exhibit “excessive” cross-sections while the works under “C” tender have “under-sized” cross sections. Engineers from Central Design Organisation:  MERI must have had a hand in this. This is commonly known but nobody talks about it. The best example of how these engineers from the mentioned organizations have given wrong design is of Radial gates. The variations made for the same sized radial gates are worth visiting. The radial gates size of Gosi-khurd, Shelgaon barrage, and Lower Tapti projects are same. In fact, their weights should have been more or less identical. But, their weightages have been absolutely irrational. Weightage of Lower Tapti is 208 MT/Gate but that of Gosikhurd has 159 MT/ gate weightage. This one example is sufficient. The weight of steel has been increased by around 1000 folds. To stop such things, SIT should give special emphasis on such practices and prevent their repetition.  Against this backdrop, Konkan, Krishna valley, Tapti, Godavari and Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporations should be thoroughly investigated. Nardawe project of KIDC has two Cut of trench (COT). Such technical irregularities have been followed which must be stopped. The investigation of Balganga project would yield many shocking cases. It would be interesting to check how much cement grouting and expenses have been incurred to stop the leakage of Bhatsa project.

Discrepancy No.6.-

There have been numerous attempts in Maharashtra to raise the height of the dam wall. The existing dams do not get completely filled in the first place. Despite that, the department has consented to raise the dam wall height in hundreds of dams. Raising height has always been an expensive affair which has resulted in increased expenses. It has been a norm with Maharashtra’s Irrigation Department that anybody would ask for raising the height and the department would float the tender.  Considering the availability of funds with the state, contemplative policy makers would not have indulged in such things. But the unwise leadership has encouraged such attempts and dealt a permanent damage to all of us. It is clear that receiving cuts (percentages) against floating tenders has been a common norm here. If you would enlist the projects which witnessed such height raising, the SIT would understand the irregularities.

Discrepancy No. 7-

Many high cost and unviable projects have been undertaken/ are proposed to be undertaken under the name of increasing irrigation. When there has been no feasibility on the site, is there a case for floating high cost budget? While we have shortage of funds, such expensive affairs would not have been advisable. But some political representatives and engineers have made us bankrupt. I’m enlisting few projects here, the SIT should probe into them-

  1. 1.       Manjarpada Project Phase 1, Nashik
  2. 2.       Nerdhamne Project- Akola
  3. 3.       Shahapur Project- Akola
  4. 4.       Waghadi Project- Amaravati
  5. 5.       Chandrabhaga Project- Amaravati
  6. 6.       Kawatha Project- Amaravati

Despite the financial crunch in the state, nobody has bothered to talk sense into the cost estimates. How could we ever adopt the projects worth ₹ 15, 10, 5, 4, 3, and 2 thousand crores? The SIT must probe into this. It shows the prevalent mentality of satisfying political agendas from public funds and siphoning it off as much as possible. It is our responsibility to uproot such mentalities. Otherwise the democracy will not survive. We will see selfish anarchy rising in our country. We have come a long way from selfless leaders like Gandhi- Nehru to our current tender-floater leadership.

Discrepancy No-8

There is an urgent need to probe the tunnel works being done in Krishna river valley. There have been many tunneling works undertaken in Krishna valley without any rational basis. If one checks the rate analysis of all the excavation work, the rates would appear to have been inflated. There have been many big tunnels undertaken instead of small ones. It is a common practice to float the tender with small sized tunnels and increasing the size of the tunnel later on. SIT should probe into the works undertaken for all the tunnels so that such mistakes won’t be repeated. If the team would investigate the tunnel works in Manjarpada-1 project, such practices would be unmasked.

Discrepancy No.-9

Many projects have been granted water availability certificates from the जलविज्ञान कार्यालय (Hydrology Project) of the government as a special case, which are violations of law. The SIT should make a list of all such cases and probe them to avoid repetitions. Despite the lack of water, projects are undertaken and then they never fill up for years together. Painaganga valley has seen several such examples and still, the water availability certificates have been granted 1.5 times more than the actual water availability on ground. We request you to investigate them all.

Discrepancy No 10-

There has been no master plan for any of the irrigation development corporation approved at the government level. In absence of approved master plan, the projects have been pushed forward. We would not have been in such an unfortunate situation if the state government would have prepared a master plan and then adopted the projects accordingly. Policy makers and secretary level bureaucrats are responsible for not approving such a master plan. There is a need to fix the responsibility of this irregularity and the government must plan its irrigation-related works according to a master plan. But some political leaders don’t let this happen because they want to earn unfair profits out of it. Kindly suggest a measure which would permanently do away with this malpractice.

Discrepancy No 11-

There has been an unfortunate trend in Maharashtra of showing a new project as a part of old project on the papers and floating the tenders without taking administrative approval. Hundreds of projects have been undertaken in such a fashion. SIT should ask for the information from all the development corporations and fix the responsibility of respective irregularity. 12 barrages of Godavari, Manjarpada 1 project could be cited for example. Therefore, we request you to suggest a permanent solution against this malpractice.

Discrepancy No. 12-

It is such a shame that the projects are not being completed for 20-40 years. It reflects our poor thinking and planning. We need to put a cap on the budgets of the projects. The planning should be such that any project must be completed within 5 years. We should stop the costs of projects running as high as ₹ 5, 10, 15 thousand crores. If the political leaders from the areas of Takari, Mhaisal, Tembhu lift irrigation schemes have not been able to complete these projects despite being in power, when would the projects of other areas be completed? The team must contemplate on this and create a work discipline in Maharashtra. Kindly fix the responsibility for taking so many lift irrigation schemes when not even 1% of the 300 schemes undertaken by the irrigation department are operational. Kindly suggest the measures for future so as to prevent the wastage of public funds.

Discrepancy No. 13-

There have been many irregularities in Mechanical department (यांत्रिकी विभाग) of Water Resources Department. Vigilance cell has received many complaints. Executive engineer, vigilance team, Pune has submitted the report to the government saying there have been humungous irregularities in the Mechanical wing. I request to inquire into it so that there would be a discipline within the mechanical wing. Nobody is paying attention to irregularities in that division.

Discrepancy No. 14-

There has been no provision for technical audit in the department. Therefore, there has never been a verification of technical matters. To prohibit people from indulging in technically flawed work, it is requested to start a technical audit on the basis of AG. Therefore, there would be check on technically flawed decisions. All planning has collapsed because of the wrong estimates.

Discrepancy No 15-

Currently the state government doesn’t supply the cement for the project works, contractors buy it on their own. Therefore, the department has lost control on cement usage. There has been a tremendous corruption in cement related matters. The main reason behind stopping the supply of cement has been that the contractors find it difficult of sell the cement after the work is done. However, no irrigation development corporation has ever undertaken the thorough check up of delivery challan and excise gate passes as per the tender conditions. Therefore, there is a huge corruption in cement usage. SIT can easily prove it. There would be a shocking revelation- and it should come out- if once checks the used cement, verified delivery challans and gate passes. Every engineer knows it but they prefer to keep quiet. But, SIT should probe this and fix the responsibilities. 23 km long lining of Gosikhurd Left Bank Canal has been completely taken out because of the poor quality. The reports of executive engineers of Maharashtra Engineering Research Institute (MERI), exposing the poor quality of work done in Lower Tapi and Tarali have been suppressed. Please at least stop this corruption by supplying cement to contractors. People would be grateful to you if you could do that.

Discrepancy No. 16-

There have been too many irregularities in the irrigation department under the name of Arbitration. A closer look at all the cases of arbitration would surface these irregularities and malpractices. Especially in Marathwada, Pune, Konkan divisions and more so, in Koyana project, the corruption has been many folds. The arbitration has been the best example of how the officials indulge in corruption instead of taking the decisions in the best interest of the country. Therefore, there is a need to re-audit all the arbitration cases. Please suggest strong measures to prevent such things from happening again.

Discrepancy No. 17-

Right now, the IPI circles are almost equal to none in the water resources department. Therefore, the contractors themselves prepare the budget estimates. They prepare the estimates as they please, get them approved using political pressures and siphon off the public funds. That’s a norm! This has to stop immediately and the department must newly create IPI circles in each regional department. Isn’t it obvious to the government? To the political representatives? But they all have deliberately made those mistakes. I request to find the defaulters in those cases.

Discrepancy No 18-

Earlier the state also used to provide steel to the contractors. But now contractors themselves buy the steel. Like cement, the department has lost its control on steel usage and the risk of re-rolling steel being used in the work has increased. This is indeed serious. Therefore, it is requested that the steel should be supplied under Schedule-A like before. People who have taken such wrong decisions must be identified along with their faults.

Discrepancy No. 19-

I also request you to probe into all the steel gate fabrication works done by contractors for the rates of fabrication. In Jigaon Lift Irrigation Scheme, the fabrication rates- like the steel pipe rates- have been divorced from reality. If you would check the gates on Tapi, you can realize how the costs have been inflated. If all the irrigation development corporations are asked to submit the steel fabrication rates, irregularities of crores of rupees would be exposed.

Discrepancy No 20-

There has been a tremendous corruption in all the corporations under the clause 38 and claims. Therefore, it is requested that all the clause 38 and claims cases of all the corporations be investigated. One would be surprised by the subsequent revelation of how the costs and respective works are inflated. It is worth investigating how the officers and politicians have joined hands to commit “mistakes”. Engineers know the kind of pressure and tensions faced by the good officers who were opposing these decisions. Everybody knows how the people opposing it were insulted. These incidences are common in KIDC and so also in other corporations. Those should be investigated.

Discrepancy No. 21-

Cost of many items has been inflated beyond comprehension in all the corporations. It would be really an eye-opener exercise to check how the revised administrative approvals have been granted year-wise. For example, if you would compare the earlier tenders with the budget estimates in the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation, you would easily find the irregularities. They have been happening all over. The rates have been inflated tremendously. Comparing the rate analysis method that was adopted before 1980 and the one in effect now would prove it. By use of machines, the rates should have actually gone down but they have been raised by deploying various tricks. Investigating in such cost escalation and finding the defaulters is the need of the hour so that nobody would ever dare to indulge in such malpractices.

Discrepancy No 22-

The tenders have been awarded with high costs across all the corporations. If the true competitive bidding would have taken place, the tenders would have been awarded with 25-30% lesser rates and the works would have also been done because the rates of the rate index were higher as well. Instead of that the tenders are awarded with the higher percentage. Everyone knows how the tenders are floated at the government level. SIT should probe into all the tenders which have been awarded above percentage. The 3 large bridges which were built by Tapti Irrigation Development Corporation in the submergence area are higher than the current rate index by 60%, 70% and 80%. This is a serious irregularity. Probing into such high cost tenders awarded by all the corporations would yield the serious corruption in public expenditure. That’s why ₹ 2900 Cr tenders had to be cancelled in one go. Such a shame!

The costs of barrages built on Godavari, are raised by constructing a large dam without any reason. This is a shameful waste of money when there has been a financial crisis. Everybody has fallen prey to such hideous plans. All of these actions should be investigated into and the defaulters must be brought to the book.

Discrepancy No. 23-

Some of the irregularities have been brought to your notice. Apart from these, it is requested to you to suggest strong measures to prevent ground level and foundation level scams. Please assign at least three people to cross check such activities. It saddens me to think how much state is losing in all of such scams. But everyone seems to have become insensitive. Those who oppose it are transferred. Politicians don’t even know about technical sins. We need to stop all such mismanagement and misuse of power. The crimes pertaining to such adjustments would be exposed by checking the earlier Cement delivery chalan and gate passes of RA-bills.

Discrepancy No 24-

All the corporations have been routinely floating the tenders for a project based on the designs of other project and later on escalating the costs by several folds based actual design. It is requested that such information be collected from all the corporations and identifying the responsible people so that these irregularities would never occur.

Discrepancy No 25-

The high cost tenders are floated just to siphon off public funds. What can you call this practice- of preparing a budget estimate with hundreds of thousand crores, awarding the tender, spending around ₹ 10-15 Cr only in the beginning against the advance, and then for next 14 years, the project doesn’t get any money while the cost of the project rises from ₹ 600 Cr to ₹ 2100 Cr!

Do you think these projects would ever be complete? The worst cases in this regards are Sulwadi, Jamphal Lift Irrigation Scheme, Prakasha-Burai Lift Irrigation schemes etc. The tenders of hundreds of thousands of rupees of the projects on which less than 25 % of funds have been spent must be cancelled with immediate effect. Instead, the works costing less than ₹ 100 Cr should be undertaken otherwise the state would never come out of the financial crunch.

Discrepancy No 26-

There needs to be a thorough investigation into Takari, Tembhu, Mhaisal Lift Irrigation Schemes. Despite spending crores of rupees in last 25 years, the farmers are not getting water. The responsible people must be unmasked after thorough investigation. The machinery installed 20-25 years ago has its days numbered. Isn’t the expenditure totally wasted? What is the use of the projects which can’t even irrigate 10-15 % of the promised irrigated area? It is requested that kindly compile the information from respective departments and probe into them. Please suggest strict measures about Lift Irrigation Schemes as well. (It is also requested that please investigate Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation Schemes, Khuntefal storage lake, Kurha- Vadoda Lift Irrigation Schemes as well).

Discrepancy No 27-

Granting the advance money while there is no provision in the tender has also been one of the unfortunate norms. It is requested to collect the information from the respective corporations and identify the defaulters. For example- Five lift irrigation schemes of the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation.

Discrepancy No. 28-

All the irrigation development corporations have indulged in floating and awarding the tenders without legitimate surveys and optimum designs. I request you to seek the information on all such cases and find the defaulters. All the “C” Tenders awarded in the state fall under this irregularity. Therefore, please fix the responsibility of such “C” Tenders after conducting due investigations, especially in case of “C” tenders awarded under Krishna valley, Tapti and Kokan irrigation development corporation.

Discrepancy No. 29-

We have many projects in Maharashtra which have violated the I. S. Code norms and received approvals. 12 barrages on Godavari are the best examples of such violations. I would not be surprised if sooner or later these barrages would create some or the other kind of problem. Not taking flood design into account as per I. S. Code, especially in case of river like Godavari, is a serious blunder. I request you to investigate all such cases from respective corporations and fix the responsibilities.

Discrepancy No 30-

All the corporations have been floating and awarding the tenders without completing land-acquisition and rehabilitation of the affected families and obviously projects keep lagging for years together in absence of such important formalities. It is requested to find the responsible people and fix their responsibility

Discrepancy No 31-

It’s an open secret why the files are sent back to cabinet minister for “Liability Sanction” after completing all the due procedures of awarding the tender. The truth would come out if the data-wise investigations are carried in all such cases of liability sanction. Such kind of hegemony never takes place in any of the states in India. Please look into the matter and suggest preventive measures.

Discrepancy No 32-

In most of the estimates about the projects of Konkan and Vidarbha, though the excavation works have been done with the help of machinery, lift schemes are proposed in the rate analysis. So also in cases of pit filling works done using the machinery of hearting. Please summon the respective corporations over such irregularities, ask for the detailed reports and fix the responsibilities on defaulters.

Discrepancy No 33-

The budgets and estimates prepared by all the corporations are never checked/ cross-checked properly and are directly submitted to the state technical advisory committee. All the irrigation development corporations have been indulging into this. Nobody has so far been suspended no matter how many blunders the person committed. So, everyone has become fearless of law and the politicians have become god fathers of such corrupt people. Kindly investigate into all such matters and find the defaulters so that such activities would stop.

I’ve highlighted some of the major irregularities happening in the department. I request the SIT to come out with the measures which would prevent repetition of such things. It is further requested to take away powers to transfer the officers from politicians. The situation would be much different if the politicians are kept out of these transfer mechanisms.

Also, there should be no involvement of politicians as far as tender processes are concerned. The unfathomable corruption in tender processes would stop only if the politicians are kept at bay. Kindly recommend robust measures for that.

Lastly, I beg you for recommending the government to move away from constructing large dams, big canals, huge lift schemes, and budgets spanning over millions of rupees etc. otherwise the situation would never improve.

There is a need to revisit the fundamentals of irrigation schemes and adopt small dams, water conservation measures like Shirpur patterns etc. Large dams should be taken up only in exceptional cases. The situation seems pretty grim considering the large dams, canals, and distribution networks that we have undertaken in last 50 years. We need to check if the area which was supposed to be irrigated, has really been benefited. There is no point in digging wells for the purpose of percolation either. What has happened to the commitment that we had made in the beginning? Its review would prove that our total irrigation efficiency doesn’t even exceed 15%. So please review and revisit our irrigation policies. The state would have had much better irrigation had the Shirpur of such small, appropriate technology patterns had been adopted. Unfortunately the state has suffered the most because of the people with insatiable greed for power and money- be it engineers, or politicians or contractors. The political leaders have stripped the state of all its possessions. Therefore, I beg you to drastically change the irrigation policy. I pray to the ultimate creator that you would change the situation for the betterment of Maharashtra.

It does not matter if the team would need an extension, or if an additional investigation team would be composed, but, please create an order in the state.

Yours,

Vijay Pandhare

Chief Engineer META and

Member, State Technical Advisory Committee

Nashik 4

Attached:

Letter dates 20.02.12 ( 9 pages)

Letter dated 5.5.12 (15 Pages)

Letter dated 12.10.12 ( 4 pages)

Copy to:

Hon. Governor, GOM, Mumbai for appropriate instructions

Hon. Chief Minister, GOM, Mumbai for appropriate instructions

Hon. Chief. Secy, GOM, Mumbia for appropriate action

Hon. Principal Secy, Irrigation Department, GOM, Mumbai

Shri. V. M. Ranade, Retd. Secy and Member, SIT

Translated from Marathi to English by Damodar Pujari


[2] From SANDRP: TORs of SIT , GOM, 31 December 2012, Point No. 2.9 States: If irregularity found in the investigation, it should be investigated, responsibility should be fixed and action to be taken should be suggested.

[3] We have shifted the placing to this para