Resolutions in Punjab, Haryana Houses against HP water cess

Chandigarh/Shimla, March 22 : The legislative Assemblies of Punjab and Haryana today unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Himachal Pradesh Government’s proposal to impose water cess on hydropower projects even as the Congress regime in the hill state defended the move saying it was “well within its rights to do so”.

Moving the resolution in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Water Resources Minister Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer said they would not pay a single paisa to Himachal. He claimed the new levy would mean an additional annual burden of Rs 1,200 crore for partner states, a major portion of which would have to be borne by Punjab.

Endorsing the resolution, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said the cess was a “major setback to the interests of Punjab and its people”. He said contrary to its name, Punjab (the land of five rivers) was today facing serious challenges in terms of potable water. He said the move was a fresh attack on the water rights of the state, “which could not be tolerated”. “It’s illegitimate and irrational… aimed at dividing the country… it’s not ‘Bharat Jodo’, but ‘Bharat Todo’ campaign,” he said, questioning the absence of Punjab Congress leaders from the Assembly when the state was deliberating such a serious issue concerning the state’s waters.

Moving the resolution in the Haryana Assembly, CM Manohar Lal Khattar termed Himachal’s water cess ordinance as “illegal”. He claimed it was not only an infringement of Haryana’s exclusive rights over its natural resources, but would also make power generation costlier. “Of the Rs 1,200 crore additional cost, Rs 336 crore burden will fall on Haryana. The water cess is against the provision of the Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956. The state of Haryana, through the Bhakra Beas Management Projects, is already liberal in releasing 7.19 per cent of electricity of the composite share of Haryana and Punjab to Himachal,” he said.

Congress chief whip BB Batra too supported the resolution and suggested including that the ordinance was not binding on Haryana, which was agreed. The House also requested the Centre to prevail upon the Himachal Government to withdraw the ordinance as it was a violation of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, which was a central Act.

Riparian law not violated: Sukhu

HP CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said the imposition of water cess was not a political issue, and that it would not cause any loss to Punjab or Haryana.
“We will examine the resolutions and if need be, I will take up the issue with my Punjab and Haryana counterparts to clarify their doubts,” said Sukhu.
He said, “Uttarakhand and J&K have already imposed water cess and it in no way infringes on the rights of other states. The riparian law doesn’t prohibit Himachal from imposing cess on power generation.”