Tamil Nadu

T.N. against move to price groundwater for agriculture


State government preparing its response to the model groundwater bill circulated by Central government

The State government does not favour the idea of pricing groundwater for agriculture. The government, which is fine-tuning its response to the model groundwater bill circulated by the Central government, feels that the text of the model bill provides scope for the idea, which, if translated into action, will only attract controversies, says a senior official.

Though the text does not explicitly talk of agriculture, the sentence in question — “industrial or bulk groundwater use shall be priced,” which comes under the section 21, gives the impression that groundwater supplied by one farmer or the owner of an open well or bore well to another on a private basis will be covered.

Observing that it has been practice of groundwater buyer-farmers in the State to give one third of their yield to sellers, the official, however, says, “We do not want this aspect to be included in the model bill. Instead, the entire matter should be left to the discretion of States.” As per the model bill, it is left to the appropriate government to prescribe the proposed price. The term, “appropriate government,” can either be rural or urban local bodies, apart from State governments. The official also points out that if the model bill gets adopted in the present form, the notion of ownership of groundwater by individuals will not operate. As groundwater is defined as common heritage of people, the State, at all levels, is the public trustee of groundwater

The opposition of the State government over the pricing issue can be understood from the fact that the State was among the first to implement the scheme of free power supply to small and marginal farmers as early as in 1984, when the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government (AIADMK) was in power. Six years later, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government extended it to big farmers. On a couple of occasions, attempts were made to change the scheme, but in vain.

Dead subject

Besides, the concept of irrigation water rates has been a dead subject as far as Tamil Nadu is concerned. In March 2003, the AIADMK government, under the pressure of the World Bank, chose to slap, what it called then, additional water rates on agriculturists who raised irrigated crops. Subsequently, the rates were given a decent burial. Another provision of the model groundwater bill, which the State government does not favour, pertains to the power given to the proposed village panchayat or urban ward groundwater committees. These panels will carry out registration of wells and other sources such as springs.

They will also carry out the first-level scrutiny of applications for tapping groundwater for industrial or commercial use or any other bulk use and recommend authorisation to the authority concerned. Their recommendation will be essential for infrastructure projects too.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics Chennai Tamil Nadu
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 3:50:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tn-against-move-to-price-groundwater-for-agriculture/article18405545.ece

Next Story