Millennium Post

Dishonesty in Vidharbha

Maharashtra is one of the richest states in India. Though, it is known for the industrial investment it attracts every year from internal and external sources, at least one region in the state makes news on the agricultural front. Its eastern part known as Vidharbha – also known as the rice and orange country of middle India – has unfortunately been in the news for farmers’ suicides. And, now it has hit the headlines because of a not-so-unrelated issue. The deputy chief minister of the state resigned on Tuesday from his post for what has come to be known as the irrigation scam, and whose catchment area has been Vidharbha. The government of Maharashtra launched many irrigation schemes to help the Vidarbha farmer who is mostly dependent on rains to cash in on the heavy investments they make in agriculture. A lot of these schemes were launched between 2004 and 2009 when Pawar held the irrigation portfolio of the state. By 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced a special package for the region, targeted mostly at its farming community. So, there was money and there was a cause to be exploited. That’s where the corrupt bureaucratic machinery of the state put two and two together and allegedly built a scam of modicum size out of it. The details of mindlessly increasing the cost of these irrigations schemes – many of which are non-existent, others not existing at the scale promised or conceptualised by the state government – emerged slowly till a whistle-blower Vijay Pandhare, a chief engineer with the state water resources department [which is the new name of the irrigation department], wrote to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan giving details of the scam. Now, the state government has the details on which a fair, fearless and unbiased enquiry can be mounted. Chavan has done the right thing by immediately offering police protection to Pandhare after Pawar’s resignation. Now, the next step should be that he institutes a state-level enquiry on the allegations that have already come out in the public domain.

The irrigation scam is the second major scam to have hit the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government, the first one being the Adarsh Society scam. In the both the cases, the alert citizens have brought a corrupt government to show some accountability. The initial ground work in the Adarsh scam was done a civil society activist and now we have the fearless Pandhare taking on the might of a ruling family that holds sway in large parts of rural and semi-urban Maharashtra. The positive that comes out of this exposure is that we can salute the honesty of a government engineer at a time when his department and bosses have exhibited questionable conduct.
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