Extra finances for irrigation projects under lens

Cabinet orders review of allocation of ₹6,144 cr., to finalise amount for farm loan waiver

Decisions from the last Cabinet meeting of the Devendra Fadnavis government, which extended thousands of crores as additional finances to irrigation projects in the State, particularly in Jalgaon district, have come under the scanner of the new Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The State Cabinet has directed the Cooperation, Finance and Agriculture Departments to come up with the amount required to announce an absolute farm loan waiver in Maharashtra.

The Cabinet also decided to hold loan guarantees worth ₹310 crore given to four sugar mills belonging to Pankaja Munde, Kalyanrao Kale, Dhananjay Mahadik and Vinay Kore, all of whom are affiliated to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In the first Cabinet meeting held after winning the trust vote in the State Assembly, a review of the extension of additional finances has been ordered, sources present in the meeting said. Four of the five projects are from Jalgaon district, the home of the then irrigation minister Girish Mahajan.

Mr. Mahajan is considered to be Mr. Fadnavis’s closest aide among all BJP leaders. He was also the key BJP leader who played a role in several Congress and NCP leaders crossing over to the BJP.

Developments in the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday indicate that the tripartite government is set to scrutinise the working of his department.

The four projects in Jalgaon district, namely Waghur, Hatnur, Varngaon-Talvel and Shelgaon, were given an additional ₹2,288 crore, ₹536 crore, ₹861 crore and ₹968 crore respectively. The State Cabinet has directed Irrigation Department officials to submit a report on the urgency behind the decision to provide additional finances. In addition, the Bhatsa project in Thane district was given a sixth financial extension worth ₹1,491 crore.

“The last Cabinet meeting of the previous government passed 34 decisions. We are going to review all of them,” said a senior minister who attended the Cabinet meeting. The minister pointed out that of the five projects, four are from a single district and that too, of the former irrigation minister.

Sources who attended the Cabinet meeting said it was observed that no prior approvals from the Planning and Finance Department were taken before giving this Revised Administrative Approval worth ₹6,144 crore, as a result of which a review has been ordered. “It is likely that all such Revised Administrative Approvals will be under the scanner now,” said a source.

The Cabinet meeting also discussed the damage caused by unseasonal rains and the amount needed in case the government decides to go in for an absolute farm loan waiver. “The farmer is the centre of this government and we are committed to providing all possible help. Directions have been given to calculate the amount required for the loan waiver to the respective departments to take a final decision,” said the minister.

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