Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Sambalpur, Apr 23:
Fearing a backlash after it backed out from the Odisha government’s subsidised lunch scheme ‘Aahar’, Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) has paid a major chunk of the industrial water cess due on it.
As per information available, the water cess due on industries in the state drawing water from the Hirakud dam to feed their units amounted to Rs 362 crore by this January end.
MCL, which owed over Rs 91 crore towards water usage bills, topped the list of defaulters. Its Jagruti Vihar office owed Rs 7.77 cr, MCL Brajrajnagar Rs 62.40 cr, Lilari opencast mine Rs 19.96 cr, Lakhanpur opencast mine Rs 94.29 cr.
The state government had directed the state water resources department to ensure collection of industrial water cess in view of dipping revenues from mining activities, which contribute the most by way of water charges to the state exchequer.
After the government stepped up its revenue collection drive, MCL paid the pending dues. However, over Rs 8.35 crore is yet to be realised.
Apart from MCL, water cess dues are pending on Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO), Nilachal Ispat Nigam Ltd (NINL), Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IREL), Paradeep Port Trust (PPT) and East Coast Railways (ECoR).
Notably, industrial water rate is the biggest contributor to the total revenue collection of the water resources department.
The state government adopts a strict policy towards farmers whereas it is lenient towards industries.
Interesting, a farmer is ineligible for registering his name for procurement of paddy in case of default of water cess payment. However, the government has not cracked the whip on the industrial defaulters.
It may be recalled that MCL had backed out of the ‘Aahar’ scheme at the last minute leaving the BJD government red faced.
The Sambalpur district BJD had called for a dawn-to-dusk bandh after MCL backed out from sponsoring the subsidized meal scheme, ahead of its launch on April 1 in five cities across the state. The BJD unit had also staged demonstrations in front of MCL headquarters in Sambalpur.