Uddhav Govt targets Fadnavis, orders SIT probe to its ambitious Jalyukta Shivar scheme

Devendra Fadnavis - Jalyukta Shivar Scheme - Uddhav Thackeray - Editorial

In an attempt to target the former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, the Uddhav Thackeray government on Wednesday has formed an SIT to investigate the BJP-Sena government’s Jalyukt Shivar.

Interestingly, the Jalyukt Shivar scheme was praised by several people and even economists of the country. The renowned economist Ajit Ranade had appreciated the work and its results. He even said the condition has actually improved on the ground. The impact of water conservation in Maharashtra – the same level of crop production with almost 40 per cent less rainfall. The water table rose by three metres in drought-prone Marathwada and a second Rabi crop was being grown even in drought-prone regions. It was unheard of earlier, the economist said while lauding the scheme.

Moreover, during the budget session, the deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who also holds the Finance portfolio, revealed that around 19,655 out of 25,000 villages had become drought-free in the State in last 5 years under the Jalyukta Shivar Project. The Jalyukta Shivar scheme also helped create a water storage capacity of 26.52 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) in Maharashtra, said the economic survey of the state.

The findings of the report directly contradicted the claims of the government that the work executed as parts of the project were “substandard” and of “poor quality.” Fact is that there was a tremendous pressure from some ministers of the Aghadi government, who are demanding an inquiry into the scheme at the state cabinet meeting, a few months ago. The scheme which has not been renewed since December 2019, recently came under flak by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for its limited impact inspite of spending crores of rupees for the project.

The CAG report tabled in the Maharashtra Assembly said that a sum of Rs 9,633.75 crore was spent on the scheme, but had little impact in achieving water neutrality and increasing groundwater level. The report added that there was “lack of transparency” in the execution of works and inadequate monitoring by the state water conservation department. The Shiv Sena, which was a part of the Fadnavis government, has criticised the BJP for the scheme. The ruling alliance partners, Congress and NCP had alleged that the number of tankers in the state had increased despite the implementation of the plan and the groundwater level had not increased.

The Jalyukta Shivar Project was started by ex-Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in 2015 and 19655 villages had been rendered drought-free at an expenditure of 9,448 crores. The scheme facilitated deepening and widening of streams, construction of dams, digging of farm ponds and work on nullahs.

If the government is initiating an enquiry, it should also convince the people of the state that how around 19,655 out of 25,000 villages had become drought-free in the State in last 5 years under the scheme. This is purely vendetta politics to target the critics of this government that utterly failed in every front, particularly to control Covid-19 pandemic.