Sunday, Dec 21, 2014

‘Non-populist’ Irrigation Bill shelved for fear of irking farmers

Written by Hiral Devrajbhai Dave | Ahmedabad | Posted: January 31, 2014 6:52 am | Updated: February 5, 2014 6:04 pm

The Narendra Modi-led government, keen on sending the message of good governance to the people, has decided to hold the Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Bill 2013. However, the State Right To People (Public Service) Bill 2013, is expected to get its final shape very soon, given its populist nature.

Both these bills were cleared by Governor Kamla Beniwal last year.

While the State Right To People (Public Service) Bill, 2013, is a populist one, promising good governance through time-bound delivery of public services, the Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Bill, 2013, proposes to regulate water resources entirely under government control and has, hence, been shelved as it may make farmers unhappy.

With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the government wants to send the good governance message across to the people. “The government’s priority now is to form the final rules and regulations draft for the pending bills, especially the State Right To People (Public Service) Bill 2013. It is very important to send the message of good governance, which is the heart of Modi’s campaign,” said a top level officer on condition of anonymity.

Sources in the government maintained that it is already late. But with the BJP prime ministerial candidate busy campaigning, along with several important policies including Industries, tourism and solar, hogging for Modi’s attention, the draft for bills have also been pending.

But the case with the Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Bill 2013 is quite different. The bill, which has put limit on the depth of borewells and penalty on using canal water, even coincidentally, was passed in the Assembly with a majority, in spite of strong opposition from the Congress. But now, despite the Governor clearing it, signs of intense agitation from ground reports led the government to put the bill on hold.

“It will be suicidal to implement the irrigation bill at this juncture,” said a senior minister in the government, adding, “It is not likely to be touched at all. No ministers want to do it for fear of facing the anger of the farmers in their constituencies.”
But then again, if the State Right To People (Public Service) Bill, 2013, is stalled as well, the BJP leaders will have to gear up for questions being bombarded at them from all quarters.

In April 2013, when the public service bill was cleared, Gujarat was the 14th state in India that called for penalising public servant in case of failure in time-bound delivery of services.

While the government of Madhya Pradesh, headed by another BJP CM, Shivrajsinh Chauhan, was the first to implement this Act in 2010, in the past three years a total of 13 states, including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Chhattishgarh, Delhi, Kerala, Orissa, have implemented this Act.

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