The Maharashtra state government's interim budget presented on Tuesday allocates Rs 8,215 crore for the irrigation projects in the state, about Rs 1,000 crores more than the funds it gave the sector last year. This increase has been made despite allegations of large-scale misappropriation of funds in the sector.

The state's 2012 Economic Survey said that though Rs 7,000 crore had been spent on irrigation projects over the previous decade, Maharashtra's irrigation capacity had grown by merely 0.1 per cent. A few months later, Vijay Pandhare, a former chief engineer of the state water resources department, wrote to the chief minister and the governor detailing massive corruption by politicians and contractors involved in irrigation projects.

Pandhare accused Ajit Pawar, the deputy chief minister at the time who also held the irrigation portfolio, of exaggerating costs, unjustifiably expanding the scope of failed projects and allowing poor quality construction. Pawar was forced to resign, though he was later given a clean chit by the state government.

Pandhare told that said that the increase in this year's would do little to help the state's irrigation needs, but was merely a way to continue work on projects that would never be completed.

According to Pandhare, Maharashtra has been burdened with scores of impractical irrigation projects. Increasing funds would do nothing to make the state's projects any more viable, he said.

Projects sanctioned under political pressure have been cleared without strict deadlines, Pandhare alleged.  As early as 1975, the state set up an Irrigation Development Corporation that sanctioned 227 medium-sized lift irrigation schemes, at a cost of about Rs 3,000 crore. Nearly 40 years later, less than five per cent of these projects have been finished or shown any significant results.

Even schemes such as the Trasna Koyna stabilisation project, which has an estimated cost of Rs 15,000 crore, has no timeline, he said.

The state's irrigation policy, which consists of large projects, should be revamped to allow for small, time-bound projects that can be completed without unreasonable escalations of scope or cost, Pandhare said.