Clean chit for Ajit Pawar in irrigation white paper

Ajit PawarA Maharashtra government white paper on irrigation projects worth Rs68,000 crore over the past 10 years is scheduled to be discussed by the state cabinet this evening, with several reports indicating that it gives a virtually clean chit to former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.

Pawar, nephew of agriculture minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, held the irrigation portfolio for a decade between 1999 and 2009. He quit as deputy chief minister in September following allegations of corruption in irrigation projects under his regime.

The white paper prepared by the state water resources ministry has reportedly rejected the premise that there was corruption in irrigation projects and has only listed out project-wise reasons for cost overruns and delays.

According to The Economic Times, which says it has access to the report, the white paper claims an increase in irrigation potential by 28 per cent in the last decade, besides a 72 per cent rise in land under irrigation.

However, the state's economic survey had pointed out that despite around Rs70,000 crore having been spent on irrigation projects, the amount of irrigation created had risen by just about 0.1 per cent.

The state cabinet will discuss the white paper and then present it in the state legislature during the winter session at Nagpur next month.