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Govt may put water under concurrent list

nationpaper Updated: Oct 05, 2016 11:03 IST
Hindustantimes
         

NEW DELHI: Should water be transferred from state list to concurrent so as to enable the Centre to legislate on it? The question has come alive again due to the impasse over the sharing of Cauvery water, with Karnataka virtually showing defiance to the Supreme Court direction to release water to neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

Sources in union water resources ministry say the latest round of water dispute could set the ball rolling for the government to consider a long-pending proposal to bring water under the concurrent list of the Constitution. Both the Centre and the states can legislate on subjects under the concurrent list.

“As far as the issue of water sharing is concerned, the Centre has a neutral role to play. We do not have a locus standi in the matter as it is a state subject. We are involved only because the court has directed us to mediate between the two states,” said an official.

Officials said the ministry’s role is limited to coming up with a mechanism to implement the Cauvery Water Tribunal order vis a vis the quantum of water that Karnataka has to release to the three states in the river basin – Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

Citing frequent water-related disputes among states -- the ministry had last month tried to broker peace between Chattisgarh and Orissa over sharing of water from the Mahanadi river – sources say the issue of bringing water on the concurrent list is back on the discussion table, although there is no formal move yet.

Parliament can with two-thirds majority amend the law to bring a state subject on the concurrent list, which has to be ratified by at least half of the states.

It’s easier said than done though. States have been bitterly opposed to the idea of a more direct central role in resolving water sharing disputes. “For political reasons states will oppose such a move. Also, it will require a constitutional amendment and without political consensus it will be difficult to get the proposal passed,” an official admitted.

Experts believe that the Centre doesn’t have to bring water on the concurrent list to have a say in disputes. Entry 56 of the Union list- which enumerates subjects on which only the Centre can legislate- empowers the Centre to regulate “interstate rivers” if Parliament so decides.

First Published: Oct 05, 2016 11:03 IST

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