Open Letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis

Above: CM Devendra Fadnavis Photo from: IBN Lokmat

Dear Chief Minister of Maharashtra,

Congratulations for becoming the Chief Minister of one of the progressive States in the country.

We would have felt better if this greeting was without the smudge of Voice Vote in confidence motion. We would have liked to see that while coming into power, you and your government had no links whatsoever with tainted politics of National Congress Party, which was named in a scam that affected Maharashtra’s weakest, but in many senses, its bravest populace: its farmers. But Voice vote has raised a question mark on this. Leader of your party had called NCP as Naturally Corrupt Party!

Nonetheless, you are known to have a great public image as a proactive, scholarly leader with integrity and intelligence.The last CM we had also had a scholarly and clean image, but after resigning from the CM’s post, which he held for more than four years, he admits to his mea culpa that he did not take the firm action in the irrigation scam because he wanted to save his government from collapsing. Maharashtra’s people, besides his own party, paid the price for this.

The crucial qualities the state seeks right now as it stands on the crossroad of political upheaval and natural calamities are not only a clean image, but forthrightness, commitment to democratic & accountable governance and, more importantly, capacity for an independent and clear judgement which is not swayed by the orders of higher ups or peers.

Natural calamities made worse by government’s mismanagement and inaction have racked Maharashtra in the past few years. Right on the heels of the dam scam, came the 2012-13 drought, dubbed by some (somewhat erroneously) as the worst drought in past forty years. After this came the delayed rains, droughts and excessive rainfall in Vidarbha, the hailstorms of February and March 2014, several agricultural diseases, crash of market prices of agricultural produce and fruits. In July 2014, the Malin Tragedy underlined how vulnerable, unprepared and fragile is our Western Ghats Region. Even now, Vidarbha region is reeling from late rains and extremely poor yield of soybean.

The calamities have affected the social and political milieu of the state; they have also literally broken the backs of its farmer. You have experience in disaster management and can appreciate how meagre our response has been to the natural calamities. To the manmade calamities, too, our response has been far from satisfactory. After more than two years after the so called exposé of the irrigation scam, we still have not brought a single irrigation official or politician or contractor to book. This scam and the sheer callousness of Congress-NCP government in handling the issue was one of the main factors behind its collapse. BJP did play an important role in following up with the issue in several parliament sessions and also with the media, but its actions and demands lacked conviction and seemed to save some of the culprits that were close to the BJP.

Irrigation Scam

Isn’t it surprising that being an opposition for 15 years, the BJP played such little real role in unearthing the scam? In fact, it was reported that when some people approached Nitin Gadkari with evidence of illegalities and irregularities, they were told that he is unable to take action against Congress–NCP as “Woh hamare char kaam karte hai, aur hum unke char kaam karte hai”.

The scam came into focus due to efforts of the then-serving chief engineer of Maharashtra Engineering Training Academy (META), Vijay Pandhare, media reports, CAG, courts, civil society and activists of the then-India Against Corruption (later renamed Aam Aadmi Party or AAP)—Anjali Damaniya, Mayank Gandhi, and others. The sheer extent and the impact of the unprecedented scam shocked the nation, after spending more than Rs 70,000 crore for over 10 years there was practically no increase in area under irrigation in Maharashtra. It needs to be remembered here that the scores of mega irrigation projects which were sanctioned and received their first administrative approval even without requisite water availability studies were initiated in the period when Sena-BJP was in power.

It needs to be acknowledged that Eknath Khadse, as the leader of opposition, and you, played a significant role in following up on the scam and pressurising the government.

At the same time, there were some notable contractors, close to BJP or even MPs and MLAs of BJP who were reportedly involved in the scam. Notable examples include Ajay Sancheti of SMS Infrastructure who is also the permanent National Executive Committee Member of the BJP. Media reports showed that Sancheti was not only implicated in Irrigation Scam, but in coal block allocation scam and Adarsh scam, too!

Damaniya, member of AAP, showed through RTI that Sancheti bagged 10 contracts from VIDC worth more than Rs 3,000 crore between his older company, new company and joint ventures with others (in 2005, Sancheti’s firm, Shaktikumar M Sancheti Ltd, changed its name to SMS Infrastructure Ltd and got a fresh certificate of incorporation, Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation was informed of this name change. But the two companies continued to exist together, bagging contractor between them and also additionally). These include almost all big projects in Vidarbha, including Gosi Khurd, Lower Penganga, Purna Barrage, Wardha Barrage, and Pedhi Project. This was when awarding more than three contracts to one contractor was illegal. Rules were bent, huge mobilisation advances were given, scope of work was increased and cost escalations were approved to help contractors. But BJP did not seem to take any action about this.

In case of BJP MLC Mitesh Bangadiya, it was his company MG Bangadiya Infrastructure which constructed the hugely flawed 23 left bank canal section of Gosi Khurd Project, which was recommended for complete demolition by Mendhegiri Committee in their report.

It is unfortunate that BJP took no action in this regard. It is also reported that in the midst of these exposures, it was Gadkari who specifically wrote to the water resources ministry at the Centre and sought early release of funds for these very contractors. It was stated that when BJP submitted “bullock cart full of evidence” to the Special Investigation Team headed by Madhav Rao Chitale to investigate the scam, incriminating evidence against these two groups were left out.

We hope that once in power, you will immediately order a judicial or CBI probe into the scam and full enquiry into the contractors who benefitted out of it, including the ones close to BJP, as also demanded by others.

SIT and White Paper

There was a need to reject the SIT Committee Report under the chairpersonship of Chitale as it was not an SIT—it had diluted TORs and Chitale is known to biased in favour of such projects, the department bureaucracy and status quo. The constitution of the committee was only a ploy to buy more time and show a semblance of taking action on the scam. We hope that you do order an immediate CBI probe into this or a judicially appointed SIT with independent members having track record of being able to take on issues upfront, with clear TORs and with power to summon and question.

The white paper brought out by the Water Resources Department (WRD) was also a shield for guilty to hide behind, and, unfortunately, other political parties, including BJP, failed to critically analyse it.

  • We hope that after coming to power, you will hold public consultations on the irrigation scam, white paper, at the dams in question to understand the local issues and real situation. There is also a need to include several dams left out of the white paper.
  • Post facto analysis of the performance and impacts of large dams is a need for the state as we continue to hanker behind more such projects for political and contractor benefit. Maharashtra, with the largest number of big dams in the country, has one of the lowest areas under irrigation.
  • We hope that you will take action against those involved in the projects named in the SIT Report (like Gosikhurd), responsible officials, ministers and contractors who benefitted unduly from the scam. Work on all such projects should be suspended till there is logical end to scam issue.
    Equity in water distribution

Maharashtra has the nation’s largest water infrastructure in terms of projects completed. There is a need to use this existing infrastructure in an optimum way for the benefit of the poorest, neediest, farmers and in a sustainable, equitable and democratic way.

  • We hope the new government will support equitable, sustainable cropping pattern, scrap secretive diversions to urban areas, industries and unplanned water intensive crops from dams meant for agriculture, and dismantle bodies like High Powered Committee immediately.

Environmental Governance

CAG report on irrigation projects in Maharashtra 2013-14 has exposed that works of more than Rs 7,000 crore were initiated by the WRD on nearly 249 projects without requisite forest and environmental clearances. Not only did it result in locking thousands of crores of public funds, it also damaged the meagre forest cover and environment of the state without justification or informed decision making process.

  • We hope the new government takes immediate action against projects mentioned unambiguously in CAG report and officials who initiated such projects.

Implement Gadgil report on Western Ghats

The Coalition’s stand on Western Ghats report under the leadership of Madhav Gadgil was escapist. The misinformation spread about Eco Sensitive Zone and the push for self-benefitting industries in the Konkan region seems to be one of the primary reasons for Narayan Rane’s defeat.

  • We hope the new government accepts the Gadgil report without losing more time and takes steps as per the report to democratise environmental governance in the Western Ghats. As Gadgil has reiterated many a time, the report is not a blueprint but a framework which can be modified by the people themselves.
    De-politicise sugar

Depoliticize Sugar

Water politics of Maharashtra is linked to the sugar politics. We grow sugarcane in the most drought affected regions, benefitting generations of political masters of NCP and Congress.

Maharashtra’s sugar crop is most inefficient user of water as per a study of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). Although the sugar barons make the right noises about working for farmers’ benefit, that is a lame argument when you take into account thousands of poor farmers who are deprived of ANY irrigation benefits because of concentration of water in the hands of the sugar lobby. Apart from creating deep schisms in the social fabric of the state, it is also making the cane farmer vulnerable to climate change and the whims and fancies of sugar barons. Per tonne rates of cane are not commensurate with the cost of water, labour and fertilisers. Significant to note here that factories in Vidarbha belonging to politicians like Gadkari reportedly offer the lowest cane rates in the state to the farmer at around Rs 1,650 tonne when the average rate are about Rs 2,200 tonne.

  • There is a need to break the sugar shackles chaining the water and agriculture sector, to give more autonomy to the proposed Sugar Development Board, with more farmers on board, not sugar barons. There is also need to stop new licences of sugar industries in the drought belt; at present, the Sugar Commissioner has no such powers. Flow irrigation to sugarcane needs to be stopped, audit of sewage treatment of sugar factories needs to be carried out and the factories have to be made zero discharge, full water reuse models. SANDRP has witnessed that even factories of powerful politicians do not have functioning effluent treatment plants despite sugar industry being in the grossly polluting category (GPI).
    There was a time when the people concerned turned a blind eye towards ills of sugar factories as they were the engines of cooperative movement in Maharashtra. That is nearly in the past now. More and more cooperative sugar factories, set up with money from government, farmers and shareholders became dens of political manipulation and are being converted into private mills at a price which is a joke of their valuation. We have 168 cooperative sugar factories, but about 36 are being liquidated, 26 have been converted from cooperative to private entities and here too there is a strong political presence.
  • We hope that once in power, BJP conducts an audit of sugar industry including water efficiency of sugarcane in Maharashtra with respect to water use, release of water for sugarcane by dams, especially in drought affected Marathwada and western Maharashtra like Ujani, Lower Terna, Manjara, Mazalgao, lift irrigation schemes on Ujani and other scarcity-hit rivers, etc.
    Climate action plan

Action on Changing Climate?

While disasters like the February 2014 hailstorms affected more than 10,000 farmers in vulnerable Marathwada and Vidarbha, we still do not have a State Action Plan on Climate Change which should have been ready years ago through people’s participation.

  • We look forward to your government to complete work on State Action Plan for Climate Change in a community driven, bottom-up, transparent and democratic manner.

The problems of climate becoming more uncertain, extreme weather events increasing in frequency and rainfall failing when due, protective irrigation is becoming a dire need. Despite absence of irrigation, dryland farming and horticulture in limited water is thriving in Maharashtra. The recent example is of the phenomenal success of pomegranate cultivation which is nearly completely on drip and is grown in some of the driest regions of the state. However, the farmers still suffer losses in the absence of processing plants and state support, which is skewed in favor of sugarcane. Same is the case with oilseeds like groundnuts, coarse millets like jowar and bajra which offer livelihood and nutritional security.

We look to the new government in supporting marginal farmers and other farmers who grow such crops as ambassadors of climate change adaptation. We also hope your government will encourage system of rice intensification for various crops.
Urban areas continue to guzzle more water, polluting and killing rivers in their wake. Unfortunately, State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) does not have a single success story to its credit. It has not cleaned a single river since its inception although receiving hundreds of crores every year from state as well as the Centre.

  • We expect the new government to conduct an immediate and open audit of the work of Maharashtra SPCB and fix responsibility for this resounding failure, order complete change of the functioning of the SPCB to make its governance directly accountable to the victims of pollution and also involving participation of the vulnerable communities and independent groups.
    Revive rivers.

River Rejuvenation

In your city, Nagpur, too, the Nag River is chronically polluted and reduced to an open drain. It could not be rejuvenated although you were a Mayor of the city twice. Now there is a move to denotify the river, which will aid setting up category red industries at its very origin, killing the river. We don’t see any political party talking about this issue.

We hope you will stop this killing of rivers as your government at the Centre has been saying that river rejuvenation is their priority, we hope it is yours too.

Incidentally, Nagpur is one of the very few cities in the state with an operational PPP water supply model. There have been too many problems and protests on this issue, we will not go into the details here, but it is again notable that the Orange City Water Supply Limited is a joint venture between Veolia and Vishvaraj Infrastructure, which is closely linked to BJP leadership. There have been no post facto studies of the efficacy of this model and the way through which tendering was done was suspicious.

  • We hope the BJP Government will democratise the governance of water supply and waste water department of the municipal bodies rather than pushing for water privatisation.
    Innovative solutions

Encouraging Local Initiatives

The 2012 and 2014 drought saw some inspiring local initiatives from farmers across the state in terms of working on new watershed structures, desilting older structures and improving distribution systems. These emerged as more equitable and even efficient solutions than larger dams. A compilation of success stories with a clear view to support local led water conservation efforts will be a shot in the arm for the water sector in Maharashtra. Although the past government tried to support smaller structures by passing government resolutions (GRs) and building strings of cement nalla bunds, watershed management is more than just a quick fix solution.

There are several other issues ailing the water-environment-agriculture milieu of the state. The Congress-NCP alliance in power earlier was lampooned because of the absolute autocracy practised in the party, the insult of public opinion and concerns, and the leaders of the coalition proving too weak to steer the state into secure and transparent governance.

We hope that through you, Maharashtra will be astride on this path. We hope that together we can work towards equitable, sustainable, corruption-free, pro-people development and governance of Maharashtra.

All the very best.

Parineeta Dandekar parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com

(A slightly edited version of this was published in Down to Earth. Please find it here: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/open-letter-devendra-fadnavis)

26 Comments on “Open Letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis

  1. a similar type of interrogative letter/questionaaire is most needed for umpteen scams&frauds&violations in UrbanDevelopment-Housing-CityBuilding sector, since CityCorporaions indulge in similar crime & misappropriations almost every day-in&-out, hence.

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  2. Excellent.Hope this letter is taken in all seriousness it deserves and sets the pace of agenda of the new-government of Maharashtra

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  3. Dear chief minister of Maharastra hume oaur humare jaise20 logonko MMRDA Ne beghar kardiya hai
    Humne year2007bhandup (w)
    Nahur
    Mumbai78

    Resell me liya tha lekinse mmrda ne be ghar kar

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  4. Dear Sir,
    Its enough now pay your max. attention on agro improvemet ,status of Farmers .Restore his dignity.Special cess for agricultural basic need s provider ..free seeds ,free fertiliser ,free education to farmers childrerns ,special marriage package to farmers Girls 50,000/- for function ,free containers for storage to safe guard from rain,mice/mouse. Rent free tractors for farmers for rapid working .special prize for Quality crop .
    for this money charge every citizens by 0.25 % on consolidated wage.0.15 % on total profit ratio of the commercial establishment.
    food is vital everybody ‘s contribution for the same is must.

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  5. Dear sir
    My name is niraj poptani.I m live at Ahuja nagar bhel quarter line ,qtr no 367,build no 31 jaripatka nagpur 440014.in this Ahuja nagar colony the many problem are cretes at present like (1)road are breakeble from a long a time its not buildted (2)the water are polluted from tap(3) the pole lights are always dump(4) the load shading are every day(5)the life of public in these colony are very hard to live(6)the road cleaner are never come in this colony (7)garbage Vala is also come in fluctuate days 1 time in 8-10 days and also argument the public by fighting or abusing public………I complain these all problem to local corporater.but the action are not getup by him.so plzz sir my kindly requst to u solve these problems quickly n free the public from these problems handling life….I hope sir u take the quick action.and free the public from these problem….. Thank u sir
    For ur precious time

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  6. I keep reading in news papers that ACB has summoned a person / a minister for questioning / interrogation towards the scam in various projects (i.e. irrigation, PWD etc.) in state and they don’t attend the meetings giving various reasons (excuses ?).

    What I wonder is are they being called for questioning OR a tea / coffee party that one can just chose not to attend !

    How come there are no actions taken further !
    Why is it taking so long ?

    It is public money involved and we want to know what happened ? And yes, want to know now and not 25-30 years later !

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  7. sub: don varsha pasun anushutut jaticha purna 50 students pardesha shiksana sathi pathavla jatnhi.

    dear sir,
    mi ek dalit Buddhist student ahe. Maharashtra government pratek varshi 50 anushutut jaticha student la pardeshat ucha shikshna sathi patvat aste, pan aple bjp government ala pasun apla government ase RG parit kele ahes ki anushutut jaticha student pardeshat gele nhi payje yacha adhi che congress government anushutut jaticha 50 student pathavayche tumche government anushutut jaticha student shikshanacha virud ahe ka tumcha government cha udhesh diltanvar anay karaycha age ka. gela don varsha pasun anushutut jaticha 50 student pardechat shikanasathi tumi ka nhi pathavat sir plz dalit student var anay nko ka hou deut
    Thank u sir

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    • नमस्कार सिध्दार्थ. कृपया तुमचा मसुदा मुख्यमंत्र्यांच्या तक्रार निवारण पोर्टल वर पाठवा. २१ दिवसाच्या आत कारवाई होते असे नमूद केले आहे. त्या पोर्टलची लिंक आहे: https://grievances.maharashtra.gov.in/mr

      तुम्हाला पुढील प्रवासासाठी आणि अभ्यासा साठी खूप शुभेच्छा.
      परिणीता

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  8. sir i am student of nagpur,maharashtra,i am the son of a farmer.
    sir my problem isthat i cant get educational loan on agricultural land which is our property.
    my friends got educational loan on property which is situated in city.
    my father cant afford our fees of education and i wasted my one year without education.
    I wanted to study hard but only because our government policy i defeated in my life.
    now i wanted to suciede.
    Sir our government cant help student like me and neve help childrdn of farmers to achieve their education.

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    • Email sent by SANDRP to CM Office: CM@maharashtra.gov.in.
      Please use Grievance Portal to register COmplaints with Government of Maharashtra: https://grievances.maharashtra.gov.in/mr

      Respected Chief Minister of Maharashtra,

      Sir, Please find below an urgent message from a farmer’s son Shri. Gaurav Rathod in Vidarbha who is unable to secure Educational Loan on his agricultural land and is contemplating drastic steps like Suicide in the absence of any help from the government.

      Sir, you have stated many times in your speeches and discussions that your highest priority is the lesser serviced farmer.

      Vidarbha and Marathwada have been witnessing spikes in suicide due to a number of issues.

      We therefore urge you to personally look into this matter and show hope and bright future to this young man.

      Im copying this email and the urgent message from Gaurav Rathod (see below) to some of our media friends to follow up. Im sure the government will set an optimistic precedence by helping Gaurav on an urgent basis.

      Looking forward to hearing from you.

      Thanking you,
      Parineeta Dandekar
      SANDRP

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  9. Respected sir

    I am belonging from village kohalitola post shenda teh sadak arjuni district gondia a part of vidarbha region.
    Sir our area knows as adiwasi area and nobody gave their attention on this area. Here poverty is in very high. The condition of former is very bad due non availability of water. All depends on rainy season.

    Children of adiwasi not educated due to not arrangements of money.

    Your attention is highly required for growth of this deserts area.

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  10. Ms Parineeta, did you get any reply , confirmation on action or anything from CM’s office or CM himself??

    Regards
    Nitin Deole

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  11. Respected Sir,pls ban use of BMC Water for flushing of toilets in Residential units ,this is the right time for it n save large quantities of Drinking water.

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  12. respected sir
    please give major budget for parli -beed-nager railway line purpose becouse it is a very need of beed area devlopment purpose

    thanking you sir
    lodhi m m

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    • Thanks, Sir,

      But we do not deal with these issues, we are basically dealing with water related issues and we are also not in decision making position.

      SANDRP

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  13. Respected sir.
    on 29-07-2016 I and my family members and friends started journey to visit famous temple situated at Maharashtra State in a travel agency Mangaladevi tours and travels from Mangalore. We visited Pandarapura, Shanisinganapura, Shirdi, Trimbakeshwar, Grismeshwara Panchavati, Mini Tirupati Kolhapur etc. We reached Pandarapura at about 8 AM on 30-07-2016 That at 9 A.M We reached temple and joined to Q which was started near from the river. It is very bad experience in my life that I never seen such dirty place. There is no any dust bin all wastage and water bottles are thrown in a street. In a Q we reached a building consisting 8th floor and after rounding it we reached the temple at 6 P.M. It is very sad to say that there is no any single guard/ police or Voluntaries in a building to guide us. No drinking water, the line where in Pilgrimage is moving is very dirty the water bottles and garbages are thrown in a floor and in a bench existed by the side of the Q is not clean as betel nuts are chewed and very dirty as it was not cleaned since from the construction of the building, There is a toilet but it was not possible to enter it, I think that sincefrom the construction it was not cleaned. In my life I am not seen such a dirty surrounding place of famous temple. That lakhs of devotees are visiting to this famous Vittal temple and there is huge collection. But there is no any person to guide the devotees and there is no any basic facility to the devotees. We will lean from shirdi temple how to maintain clean. But Pandarapura is reverse to this. Being a hindu it is very same to us that how we kept the holy place.It is very proud to say that I have born in India but very sad to say about the situation of God Vittal at Pandurapura.

    Sir please verify the arrangement made in Pandarapura Temple and its surrounding then you will realise Whether this type of ugly place is in India. Sir my humble submission to make arrangement to keep this holy place neat and clean. It is very shame to Hindus People that how we maintained such a holy place.

    Sir I never seen such a god Prime minister just like you and I hope you will definitely take action and help the god Vittala to live without any trouble at Pandarapura.

    Thanking you
    Your sincerely

    Thimmayya.P

    Like

    • Thanks, sir, this seems like a genuine issue. But you need to send this letter to the Chief Minister, our blog is related to water issues only.

      Like

  14. Sir ,You are working very good and I am proud of You about Jalyukt Shivar Yojana, But Sir Farmers of Maharashtra is in very bad condition . Congress and NCP takes only political profit of this issue. Sir we are with you. Thanks and regards . from Mohan Mahajan.

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