Maharashtra's tainted agriculture department is getting an increased allocation of Rs7,850 crore in the state budget presented on Friday, a nearly Rs600-crore increase from the Rs7,272 crore it received in the previous fiscal year.
The scam-tainted irrigation department that wasted around Rs70,000 crore due to financial irregularities during the previous Congress-NCP government, has been allocated Rs600 crore more than last fiscal year to fund 28 projects.
Announcing the budget allocation, finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the projects will be taken up on a priority basis so as to yield immediate results.
''I feel very proud and happy to state that the budgetary provision of Rs 7,272 crore for water resources projects provided during year 2015-16 has been completely distributed. Projects which will yield immediate benefits to farmers were given priority in the release of funds,'' said Mungantiwar.
The irrigation sector in Maharashtra has been marred by controversy during the previous Congress-NCP regime and two senior ministers from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were accused of financial irregularities.
State investigative agencies are still probing a Rs70,000-crore scam that is alleged to have taken place in the department during a 15-year period.
Mungantiwar, however, claimed that the budgetary provision will result in completion of 28 projects, create additional water storage of 770 million cubic metres (MCM) and bring 1.68 lakh hectare of land under irrigation.
The government has not, however, named the 28 projects.
Incidentally, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has already termed the approval to all 189 irrigation projects (worth Rs5,600 crore given during year 2007-2013) as outside the scope of the law since all these projects fall outside the purview of the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act (MWRRA), 2005. Of these, work on 66 projects is yet to begin.
The Act mandates the preparation of Integrated State Water Plan (ISWP) which is to be executed through the regulatory authority.
As per the statutory timeframe, the ISWP was to be prepared way back in the year 2006 itself. In the absence of such a statutory ISWP, the state's water policy was rendered rudderless. The government may proceed further on completing projects only after complying with the provisions of the Act.
Seven irrigation projects, at Waghur, Bavanthadi, Lower Dudhna, Tillari, Lower Wardha, Lower Panjhara and Nandur Madhveshwar Phase II have been included under the Pradhanmantri Krushi Sinchai Yojana.
In 2015-16, a budgetary provision of Rs938 crore was made for irrigation, which is proposed to be raised substantially to Rs2,078 crore during 2016-17.
Once completed, these projects will create an irrigation potential of 1 lakh hectares.
Besides, the budget provides for:
- An allocation of Rs3,473 for Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme and State Employment Guarantee Scheme;
- An outlay of Rs34 crore is proposed in 2016-17 for construction of Govardhan Govansh Raksha Kendras in 34 rural districts for rearing of non-lactating and unproductive cattle breed with participation of experienced NGOs. A one-time grant of Rs1 crore to be provided for this project. or these kendras;
- Renovation of Sassoon Dock, a major port for fishermen, at an estimated cost Rs52.17 crore with 40 per cent central assistance. An outlay of Rs15 crore proposed in 2016-17:
- Rs1,000 crore for work under the Chief Minister Rural Road Development Scheme in unconnected habitats and areas not included in PMGSY. An outlay of Rs500 crore proposed in 2016-17;
- Rs456 crore for electricity generation through new and renewable energy sources in 2016-17;
- Rs4,462.69 crore proposed in 2016-17 for subsidising energy tariff for agriculture, power loom, industrial and commercial consumers;
- An outlay of Rs4,050 crore for building two- and four-lane roads on BOT basis with private participation. Rs550 crore is proposed state share for this fiscal year;
- Rs10 lakh for freedom fighters or their living spouses who don't have a house in their or their close relatives' name in their native place;.
- Rs90.47 crore for Mumbai Metro III (Nariman Point-BKC);
- Rs50 crore for 300 special Tejaswini buses for women in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nagpur, Kalyan, Dombivli;
- Rs1,554 crore for Public Health Department; Rs405 crore for minority development department;
- Rs350 crore for CCTV surveillance system installations in sensitive cities; Rs320 crore for police housing;
- Rs20 crore in 2016-17 for Namami Chandrabhaga Mission on the lines of Namami Gange to clean up Chandrabhaga river at Pandharpur;
- Rs5 crore in this fiscal year for Shivaji Memorial outside Maharashtra
- Rs6,725.64 crore for Scheduled Caste Sub Plan; Rs5,357.71 crore for Scheduled Tribe Sub Plan.