Roha (Maharashtra): Arvind Kejriwal launched his Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Maharashtra unit Sunday with a rally from Mumbai to Roha in Raigad district.
Kejriwal also released a "black paper on irrigation" to counter the white paper released by the government, which gave a clean chit to Nationalist Congress Party leader and former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in allegations of irregularities worth Rs.20,000 crore in irrigation projects in the state. Pawar was also irrigation minister during 1999-2009.
The rally is being held in Roha, the hometown and stronghold of current Irrigation Minister Sunil Tatkare, who is also allegedly involved in financial irregularities in irrigation projects.
The "black paper" claimed that the cost per hectare for bringing land under irrigation in Maharashtra is the highest in the country and probably in the world.
"The gross irrigated area has increased by a mere 8.9 percent in spite of an annual expenditure of Rs.7,000 crore, amounting to a staggering Rs.70,000 crore. That means expenditure of Rs.21.67 lakh per hectare, which is in gross violation as the limit mandated by the Central Water Commission of Rs.1.5 lakh to Rs.2.5 lakh per hectare," said Kejriwal's "black paper".
It claims to expose the modus operandi of irregularities in land irrigation and the politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus.
Kejriwal also said that the white paper was a complete eyewash and was meant only to absolve the guilty. He also alleged that every political party was in collusion in looting the nation.
The "black paper" demanded immediate resignation of Tatkare and that a Special Investigation Team be set up to investigate the irregularities.
It also demanded that all dam projects in the state where there have been "violations" and where rehabilitation and resettlement has not been completed be halted immediately.
The rally had left Mumbai Sunday afternoon with a huge number of vehicles including buses and cars.
Thousands gathered to support Kejriwal in Mumbai and in Roha. He was accompanied by Prashant Bhushan, Mayank Gandhi, Anjali Damania, Dharam Rajya Paksh leader Rajan Raje and other activists.
With an aim to set the agenda for AAP in Maharashtra, the rally took on issues that are plaguing farmers, tribals, fishermen, labourers and the poor.
"Issues faced by farmers are important and should be dealt with. Country's biggest irrigation scam has taken place here (in Maharashtra). Farmers are being deprived of their lands, and now water," Kejriwal said.
He said AAP's first rally in the state was to address farmers' issues and that they should stand up for their rights.
"Unless all political parties are thrown out, farmers' demands will not be met unless a common man's party acts in the matter. Farmers will not be given their rights unless they are a part of the system," he said.