The Gosikhurd project, the biggest in drought-prone Vidarbha, is at the centre of the irrigation controversy that resulted in the resignation of Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar last week. The BJP has been part of the loud chorus against the alleged irrigation “scam”.
On July 30, four months after an inspection by Central Water Commission (CWC) chairman R C Jha detected several major construction flaws in the dam, Gadkari wrote to Bansal saying all objections had been clarified, no issues were pending, and central funds should, therefore, be released to the contractors.
“The report (of Special Audit, AG II, Maharashtra) was discussed in the meeting of high-powered committee where the state officers gave clarifications to all objections and stated that allegations made in the complaints carried no basis,” Gadkari wrote.
“The project was sanctioned Rs 777.61 crore as second installment for 2010-11. The continuation proposal of Rs 1,295 for 2011-12 was submitted to CWC. As all actions were taken by state government, no new issues are now pending... CWC and Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources have also strongly recommended the continuation proposal. Chairman CWC also carried inspection. If any rectification is needed due to bad quality of work, it will be carried out at the risk and cost of the contractor, not using the national fund.
“All issues were discussed in a meeting of the steering committee on May 14 and it was decided to release Central assistance... (But) It is learnt that some persons again approached Joint Secretary (Finance) and made fresh complaints. Therefore, even after... two and half months, the Finance Department hasn’t released funds.
“Due to non-payment of these dues, the contractors stop their works. This may delay the programme and creation of irrigation potential. Presently, a liability of about Rs 400 crore is pending. It is requested to recommend the project to receive funds for 2011-12 as proposed by state government... at the earliest,” Gadkari wrote.
On Thursday, Gadkari stood by his letter to Bansal. “I did write a letter to Bansal and will write 10 more... It was done in the interest of the farmers of Maharashtra, to prevent farmer suicides in Vidarbha,” he said in Mumbai.
In Delhi, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javedekar said “it is clear that no contractor’s name is mentioned in the letter”, and that “the issue is that a central government project is pending and it should be completed”.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh described the BJP chief as “more of a businessman than a politician”. “It is clear that he (Gadkari) was interested in contractors getting their money which they don’t deserve,” Singh said.
Minister Bansal said Gadkari had written “two to three letters” saying the Gosikhurd project was important for the region and should be expedited by releasing pending funds.
“Since it was letter written by the BJP chief I had marked it to my officials treating it as a VIP issue,” Bansal said.