The Punjab Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution against the Congress-led Himachal Pradesh government’s proposal to impose water cess on hydropower projects in the hill state.
The resolution said that the water cess imposed by the government of Himachal Pradesh was illegal and should be withdrawn. The opposition BJP, SAD, and BSP supported the resolution moved by the AAP government in the House on the concluding day of the budget session here.
The Congress MLAs were not present in the House as they had staged a walkout after their adjournment motion was disallowed.
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Punjab Water Resources Minister Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer moved the resolution during the budget session. Hayer said with the levy of water cess, there will be a financial burden of Rs 1,200 crore, of which Punjab will have to bear Rs 500 crore.
The resolution stated that all the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) projects which have been constructed with investment made by Punjab, largely happen to be situated within territorial jurisdiction of HP.
With the introduction of cess, the HP government is trying to put an avoidable tax burden on Punjab, said the resolution.
Mann calls the levy ‘irrational’
Endorsing the resolution, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said the cess was a “fresh attack” on the waters of the state which cannot be tolerated. Contrary to its name, Punjab (the land of five rivers) is today facing serious challenges in terms of potable water, he said and called the levy “irrational.”
Punjab has a legitimate right over the river waters and no one can snatch it from the state, said Mann, asserting that the state will not pay even a single penny.
He accused the Congress government in HP of aiming at “Bharat Todo” contrary to its “Bharat Jodo” campaign.
Cong absence questioned
He also questioned the absence of the Punjab Congress leaders from the assembly when the state was deliberating a “serious issue” concerning the waters of the state. Mann said these leaders have always “backstabbed” Punjab but the state government will leave no stone unturned in solving the issues the state is facing.
“This shameless act of the Himachal Pradesh government has exposed that Congress has several faces and they use these masks as per their political convenience,” said Mann.
He advised the HP government to refrain from taking such steps which will dilute the powers of the states. The CM said the majority of blocks in the state are in extreme dark zones due to depletion of ground water tables.
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Hayer said the HP’s move to impose water cess was against the provisions of the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956. “We condemn and reject it,” he said.
He too slammed the Congress MLAs for their absence in the House, saying they walked out because they knew that the resolution was coming in the House.
Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali also came out in support of the resolution and said there was no need to pay the cess. BJP MLA Jangi Lal Mahajan also condemned the HP government.
BSP legislator Nachhatar Pal called the HP government’s move illegal and sought its withdrawal.
(With agency inputs)