The Congress has finally compelled the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to reverse its order on the usage of water issued by a department held by the latter.
As assured by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in the Legislative Council last month, the policy on water allocation has been reversed, prioritising agriculture over industry.
The reversal was made after Chavan intervened to bring amendment to the controversial Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Amendment Bill, 2011.
The Bill in its original form gave priority to industry in allocation of water from dams, and gave rights to allocate it to a committee of ministers headed by the water resources minister. The Bill, passed at the behest of NCP, had met with opposition from the Sena-BJP and the Congress.
The amended Bill will now have to be introduced again in the Assembly in the monsoon session. The GR has been issued to ensure its compliance till then.
“The policy was reworked after taking into consideration demands from all quarters. It was promised in the Legislative Council and we have only issued a directive now,” said water resources minister Sunil Tatkare.
The water resources department, in a government resolution issued on May 18, said in lieu of farmers’ suicides and the agrarian crisis in the state, it was necessary to give precedence to irrigation for agriculture. The resolution also states that the national water policy and water policies in other states had similarly accorded precedence to agriculture over industry and as such it had been decided to do the same for Maharashtra. The water policy, framed in 2003, had given industrial use preference over agriculture. The government had said that this was based on recommendations made by the irrigation commission headed by SG Barve in 1960.
The new water policy states that drinking, sanitation and health will get priority over water allocation. This will be followed by agriculture and then by industry and commerce along with hydropower projects.