Shimla, March 16
In a major initiative to generate revenue, Himachal Vidhan Sabha on Thursday adopted with amendments a bill to levy water cess on 172 hydropower projects in the state and projects coming in future.
The amendments moved by Randhir Sharma (BJP) pertained to widening the scope for appointment of Chairman and members of Water Commission to facilitate inclusion of technocrats, retired army personnel, judges, engineers, financial and management experts and giving relaxation to projects with 5-MW or less capacity.
After intervention of Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, Deputy Chief minister Mukesh Agnihotri, who holds the portfolio of Jal Shakti department, moved the bill with amendments which was passed by the House.
Agnihotri said the water cess would not put any burden on the public and generate an annual revenue of about Rs 4,000 crore. The modalities of the cess are yet to be worked out.
The bill was brought after serious considerations and hydropower companies would be consulted and relief to projects with less than 5 MW capacity, owned by Himachali youth would be considered, Agnihotri said adding that the opposition should cooperate with the government and not side with capitalists.
Leader of the opposition, Jai Ram Thakur said the BJP was not opposing the bill but it must be ensured that there was no burden on the common man and the power supplied to the industry should be cheaper to check the flight of industry to other states.
He said that the ordinance was promulgated in a haste which was not required as convening of Vidhan Sabha session was on the anvil. He also advocated promotion of solar power.
Randhir Sharma said that he was not pleading the cause of hydropower developers but wanted the shortcomings in the bill to be removed.
Congress MLA Rajesh Dharmani suggested that similar cess should be imposed on water used by other states for irrigation.
Janak Raj (BJP) said that tribal people have first right on water, forests and land and panchayats should be given share in water cess.
Jeet Ram Katwal and Trilok Jamwal (both BJP) also asserted that the common man should not be burdened. The cess would also be imposed on projects of State Electricity Board and the burden would be passed on to consumers, Jamwal said.
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