Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Centre Robs Rivers of States

Krishna waters- 6

Ministry of Jal Shakti (Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation) has issued a NOTIFICATION from New Delhi, on the 15 July 2021 with number: S.O. 2842 (E) that has serious implications for two Telugu states- Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Seven years of their constitution, the Centre decided their ‘jurisdiction’, which, according to them, means transferring of the operation of all projects including hydel generation. It is not just transferring the controls but entire asset- lock stock and barrel – being divested from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and vesting them in Union, through the nomenclature of River Management Boards.

Also read: The law for River Water Disputes

The notification in the name of prescribing jurisdiction of the Krishna and Godavari River Management Boards (KRMB and GRMB), relieved the states from all their powers and jurisdiction and handed over them to the Boards. It attracted the criticism that the Centre has usurped all the powers of the State Governments over all the irrigation projects (35 on Krishna basin and 71 on Godavari) with reference to all functions. Strangely, the centre has imposed all liabilities arising out of functions on the States. The notification disqualifies the engineers and personnel of the two states from becoming chairman or any functionary in the Boards, and empowers the Centre, to appoint its officers only. The Babus of the centre and its engineers will really own Krishna and Godavari and act according to whims of their political bosses. Thus, it amounts to taking over of the two major rivers depriving the states totally.

Also read: Is it constitutional to take away the Rivers?

States to pay

The states are directed to deposit funds Rs 400 crore each to Boards as seed money to enable them to discharge functions effectively, and the states were told to deposit required funds additionally within 15 days of the demand by the boards. States have to give their money, staff, assets, projects, operational powers and control over all the projects in which they invested lakhs of crores of rupees since long time. All powers to Centre and all responsibilities or liabilities are thrust on the heads of the states.

Also read: River Management Boards

Two boards will have power to give any directions to two states for maintenance of projects and states are supposed to obey. The boards were given full authority to get their orders implemented. The notification further mandates: Everything in Plant, machinery equipment and stores, besides vehicles with all assets will go to KRMB and GRMB. If any question arises as to whether the KRMB or GRMB has jurisdiction, the decision of the Centre shall be final (Paragraph (o)); The states should try to get approvals for unapproved projects within six months. Both the state governments shall stop all the ongoing works on unapproved projects as on the date of publication. If approvals are not secured within six months, the projects shall cease to operate.

Also read: The Constitutional Necessity of Separation 

All the unapproved projects will have to come to a grinding halt, even if it causes economic disaster to the state. But the centre will not take any responsibility. Paragraph (g) says financial liability of any contract before the date of commencement of this notification, liability arising out of any of the present and future cases filed in the Supreme Court, High Court, any other Court or Tribunal in regard to the projects or components specified in Schedule-2 shall be the responsibility of the respective State Governments.

It is not that approved projects, either completed or ongoing- are left to the states. They were also taken over and brought under the ‘jurisdiction’ of relative River Management Boards.

There is no doubt that a serious dispute evolved between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, but this notification has not addressed it at all. Telangana was demanding the reallocation of states share in two rivers especially because the Telangana gained status of a state in 2014 and first time asking for allocation of its share in rivers. The approval of projects depends upon the allocation of waters.  Surprisingly the Central ministers claim that the taking over of rivers is to diffuse the tension created by the ‘dispute’, but, in fact, there is neither intention nor attempt to resolve it. 

Also read: CJI’s worthy solution to Water Dispute

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.

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