Farmers protest law on water allocation
Farmers and the Opposition are up in arms against a law that gives the government arbitrary powers to allocate the state’s water resources to industries, ignoring much-desired irrigation facilities, especially in dry areas of the state. Dharmendra Jore reports.mumbai Updated: Apr 17, 2011 02:50 IST
Farmers and the Opposition are up in arms against a law that gives the government arbitrary powers to allocate the state’s water resources to industries, ignoring much-desired irrigation facilities, especially in dry areas of the state.
The government passed a law to this effect on April 13, 2011, in the state assembly despite the Opposition’s vehement protests. It had promulgated the ordinance to this effect last year and later pressed for converting it into a law using its majority in the lower house even as farmers in Vidarbha, Marathwada, Konkan and parts of western Maharashtra have raised a banner of protest.
“The new law will not allow the state water regulatory authority, that the government formed under the law in 2005, to allocate water resources in an equitable manner. The authority’s role will be restricted to regulating water tariff alone,” said the BJP legislator Devendra Fadnavis.
Fadnavis said unlawful allocation of the Upper Wardha dam in Amravati to Sophia Power Company led the government to bring in the amendment. HT had first reported this matter on March 2009.
The Upper Wardha case is now in the Bombay high court, which questioned the government on allocation to the power company. “Now the government will say it has all powers and its decisions cannot be challenged in the court,” Fadnavis said.
Water resources minister Sunil Tatkare defended the amendment. “There are many projects like Sophia that need water. And, for the state’s overall development, we need to encourage industries to invest here.”
Tatkare said 75-80% water resources were still reserved for agriculture . “The GoM has a minister of agriculture, industry and water supply. They will ensure equitable allocation in future.”
On Saturday, farmers in Amravati took to the streets. Achalpur’s independent MLA Bacchu Kadu alleged the state manipulated records to show extra storage in Upper Wardha dam. Ulka Mahajan of Forum Against Globalisation termed the bill a robbery of farmers’ rights.