Odisha Ssun Times Bureau
Sambalpur, Sep 9:
Water Initiatives Odisha, a leading organisation working in the area of water conservation in the state, has come down heavily on the government’s recent decision to waive water tax worth Rs 5, 225 crores due to Odisha Hydro Power Corporation (OHPC) Ltd.
“This is unfortunate and is intended to bail out the industries indirectly,” alleged Ranjan Panda, Convenor of WIO.
Recalling that it had unearthed the ‘Great Odisha Water Scam’ in 2011 to inform the public about the state about the thousands of crores worth water tax and fine pending with OHPC and other private industries, WIO said; ““We had smelt a conspiracy then and now are sure that something has been worked out in a hidden way to bail out the industrial customers of OHPC.”
In media statements after the scam came to light, the then Water Resources Secretary of the state had said that all efforts were being made to recover these amounts. “However, when the matter came up for discussion in the next assembly sessions, the amount due with OHPC was mysteriously taken off from the list that had originally been shared with WIO,” Panda pointed out in a press release issued today.
If the government of Odisha has really taken this decision to benefit the common people of the state as it claims, it must come out with a detailed explanation to justify this decision, the WIO convenor demanded. “We want to know the exact benefit that woould accrue to each category of consumers of OHPC from this decision. Let this information be put up for discussion in the assembly and in public forums,” he said.
The fact that private industrial houses of the state are defaulting in payment of both water tax and electricity tariff to the tune of several thousands of crores had proved that the so called reforms in the power sector has miserably failed in the state, WIO said.
Pointing out that all reservoirs in which OHPC is generating power have displaced millions of people from their lands, forests and livelihood, Panda said; “The failure of OHPC in paying water tax thus means a direct injustice done to these millions of people. If the government has money, it should pay more compensation to these people instead of bailing out OHPC and its industrial consumers,” said Panda.
“Farmers in the state are going through a tough time. Millions of them are leaving farming due to lack of assured irrigation. In reservoirs like Hirakud, where OHPC has a major power plant, the farmers are suffering from water scarcity due to diversion of water to industries. If the water used for power production won’t be taxed to benefit the industrial houses, then the farmers have every right to get tax waiver on water and electricity they have used from such reservoirs. WIO therefore demands the government to waive all water tax and electricity tariff collected from farmers during the same period for which OHPC has been waived water tax,” said Panda.