Article and Image Courtesy : Times of India
Author : Nitin Sethi
To change groundwater management rules, the government aims to pass a framework law under Article 252 of the Constitution
Groundwater, a precious natural resource, is for all practical purposes a private property in India. Anyone can bore and extract water from the land he owns with few rules to restrict over-exploitation.
But all this could soon change. Plans are afoot to alter laws and regulations to make groundwater a common property resource to ensure better regulation by government as a public trustee with the involvement of communities in the management of underground aquifers. That would mean that nobody can withdraw water even from the land that he owns without a sanction from community-controlled authorities like panchayat.
The move would radically rewrite management of groundwater in India - giving community rights over aquifers instead of restricting these to landowners who can simply drill and exploit the resource.
To change groundwater management rules, the government aims to pass a framework law under Article 252 of the Constitution. This can be done with two states required to pass a similar law before the central initiative. The particular provision helps the Centre make a law that impinges on federal concerns but not override state governments' powers. Once approved by Parliament it makes it necessary for states to align their regulations in keeping with the principles of the central law.
This, the government believes, would prevent the need to alter the constitutional position of 'water' as a state subject while penal provisions would be placed within states' powers.
Radical changes emerging from the Planning Commission envision Panchayati Raj institutions will become the real-time custodians of the common resource and help regulate the use of aquifers in their domains. Such a practice is in vogue in some states like Andhra Pradesh, but the implementation of a framework law could ensure other states too devolve power and assume control.