Maharashtra government agrees to SIT probe into irrigation scam

The Maharashtra government today agreed to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the irrigation scam in the state that saw deputy chief minister and former irrigation minister Ajit Pawar make a dramatic exit following allegations of his involvement and an equally dramatic re-entry backed by a booklet issued by the Nationalist Congress Party absolving the minister of all charges.

The state government will set up an expert committee headed by Madhav Chitale to look into the whole issue, water resources minister Sunil Tatkare announced in the state assembly today. He said the modalities of the probe will be finalised by 30 December.

The SIT will look into all irrigation projects beginning from the days of the Shiv Sena-BJP rule in the state, Tatkare said. The opposition had raised a storm in the assembly over the scam and the fiasco of the NCP giving Ajit Pawar a clean chit.

The state government had spent over Rs70,000 crore on irrigation projects between 1999 and 2009, helping to add irrigated area in the state by a mere 0.01 per cent.

Against this, work on as many as 8,000 irrigation projects in the state are still pending, reports have pointed out.

Deputy chief minister and NCP supreme Sharad Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar was holding the irrigation portfolio between 1999 and 2009.