Himachal Pradesh Assembly on Thursday gave its nod to an amendment that would withdraw provisions of imprisonment from HP Ground Water (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Act, 2005 to efficiently regulate and control the development and management of ground water.
Deputy Chief Minister Mukesh Agnihotri stated that the government came into the house to only amend section 21 of the act.
Whoever fails to comply with or contravenes any of the provisions of this Act, shall, in respect of each such failure or contravention, be punishable with imprisonment for term, which may extend to five years or with a fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees, or with both.
He said that now, it has been considered prudent that in place of imprisonment, provisions would be made for a fine of ten lakh rupees. The government decided to withdraw the clause of sentence completely but continue the clause of penalty in it. This is old law and section 21 is only being amended. Minister said that no enhancement is being made in the fine and only provision of imprisonment has been removed.
Dy CM stated that all the members instead of hailing this act presented their political pulses as irrigation, drinking water and hand pumps are already exempted from the act. He said that there is already provision of deemed permission after sixty days of seeking permission for setting up tubewell and extraction of groundwater for commercial purpose. He said that all the permissions would be provided if they would not do so the action could be taken against the officials.
‘If you gave permission for industry in a single window to set up industry along with all clearance, how could the government make stringent provisions . Minister said that if any person came here for investment he should not be jailed for taking water. He said that there are provisions of penalty from Rs 5000 to ten lakh still in the act for over extraction of ground water. He said that to set up a new industry there are also provisions of providing water. He said that it is not proper to charge a fine as well as to make provisions for imprisonment together.
Speaking in the discussion Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh said that discussion is being given political overtones as it was going in another direction however the government already given an exhaustive reply on all the issues.
Speaking on the bill earlier Leader of Opposition Jai Ram Thakur said that the government came in the house with an amendment without having sensitivity on this issue. He said that Rs 10 lakh and withdrawal of punishment is not enough for the commercial purpose. He said that there should be a rider on the industrial units to keep a limit on the extraction of water from the ground. He demanded that the condition of imprisonment should not be removed as the psychological impact of fear should have been there on the violators. He said there should be two sets of provisions for commercial and drinking water, agriculture and domestic purposes. The Leader of Opposition stated that water levels are going down drastically in the industrial belt of the state.
BJP member Hans Raj(Churah) said that the government has withdrawn the provision sentence but increased the penalty upto Rs 10 lakh. He said that the over extraction of water from the Bore Well and hand pump should be included in the amendment . He said that a penal provision of Rs 10 lakh is not too much for the sake of industry and it could be enhanced. Tarlok Jamwal of (Bilaspur) said that amendment would disrupt extraction of ground water for the personal purpose of people also. ‘ If any person wants to set up a hand pump on his own land he has to take permission from the IPH Department. They did not provide permission so easily.’ He said that provision of fine of Rs 10 lakh is too much for an individual vis a vis industrial purpose.
Supporting the amendment KL Thakur of Nalagarh(Indpt) said that the bill is praise worthy to stop over exploitation of water from the water tables. He said that water sources should be made intact for the industry and provisions of penalty are good.
Opposing the amendment Dr Janak Raj (Bharmour) Those who are law abiding would be affected by amendment but those who have money would enjoy the liberty as money did not matter to well off. He said that in response to a reply the state assembly department has stated that 28 hand pumps are not registered. Seeking to increase the scope of amendment Vinod Kumar of BJP said that some drinking water affected areas should have been kept out from the purview of this amendment. It would aggravate the problem of such affected areas and there should not be provisions of penalty and sentence to such people.
Sukh Ram Chaudhary(Paonta Sahib) said that water tables of the plain are very important and it is needed for irrigation and industry as well. No Industry would set up in the state if there would be no permission for setting up tubewell. He said that permission to set up tubewell and hand pump should be made deemed regular after one month of application for the permission as it remains pending with the department for years.
The Bill was cleared by the house letter by the voice vote.