Gosikhurd project Issue

The Gosikhurd project across the Wainganga river was approved in 1982 and it was declared a National Irrigation Project by the Centre. It was planned to irrigate 2.50 lakh hectares with a network of canals including a right bank canal of 99 km, a left bank canal of 22.93 km and four lift irrigation schemes — Tekepar, Nerla, Ambhora and Mokhabardi.

It also includes renovation of the existing Asolamendha tank. The project, launched by the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1984.

The Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) is implementing the project. But the project is far from completion. According to some estimates, the project cost rose manifold from Rs. 372 crore in March 1982 to Rs. 7,777.85 crore in 2008.According to the VIDC’s official figures tabled in the Assembly, Rs. 6609.64 crore (84.98 per cent of the final cost of the project at Rs. 7,777.85 crore) was spent on the project till March 31, 2011.

The actual irrigation till 2010-2011 stood at 1,582 hectares, the irrigation potential created till March 31, 2011 was 34,022 hectares (13.5 per cent of the target of 2,50,800 hectares) and expected to be created till March 31, 2012 was 48,370 hectares.

Irregularities and current Issues with the Project

The CAG was the first one to prepare a report on the irregularities in the project in 2008. It was a performance audit of the Gosikhurd project and CAG had tabled it in the assembly in April 2008.

After this the first part of the Vadnere Committee report covering the same project was tabled in the winter session held in Nagpur in 2010. This one man committee was constituted following repeated complaints by the opposition.

The CAG report of 2008 had pointed out that funds to the tune of Rs11.5 crore had been wrongly doled out to the contractors under the pretext of mobilization of advance.

The Vadnere Committee also raised the same issue. Finally, when CAG audited VIDC’s entire financial transactions it found that ` 300 crore had been doled out as advance. Mobilization advance is a loan given to a contractor to start the work. These funds were provided despite no such condition prescribed in the tender document. CAG reports of 2008 and 2012 both highlighted issues like huge cost overruns, haphazard management and arbitrary policy in awarding contracts.

The Vadnere Committee pointed out cost escalation by contractors. This included methods like adding up even the taxes which were not to be levied in the total cost, and undue inflation of the price of inputs.With departmental inquiry being ordered into the irregularities, action was against 14 VIDC officers.

In addition, a seven-member expert committee constituted by the Union Water Resources Ministry to monitor the Gosikhurd project found cracks in the left bank main canal concrete lining work.After this panel suggested an investigation, the State government in February 2010 appointed an Enquiry Committee headed by the then chief engineer H.T Mendigiri.

In its report submitted on June 25, 2010, the Mendigiri Committee said the reason for cracks was poor quality of lining, resulting in low density and lower strength of concrete. There was insufficient and improper curing of concrete. A Maharashtra Engineering Research Institute (MERI) test report reveals that about 25 per cent core locations showed lesser thickness than the specified design. There was no proper inspection of the canal to boot. (Inputs from The Hindu and other sources)