Call for “Save Mahanadi” by Govt. of Odisha for Whose interest – Company or farmers and common people?
In the Backdrop of Mahasangram for Mahanadi- a call given by BJD Govt. to save Mahanadi which is going to be greatly affected or dried up due to over-exploitation of water by Chhatisgarh Govt. and its damaging impact on agriculture and livelihood of millions of the people of Odisha, series of RTI Applications have been submitted to State Govt. and Central Govt. to unearth the truth about the allegations made by Govt. of Odisha and status of Hirakud Dam, quantity of water used by different stake holders, real exploiter of Mahanadi river, revenue generated, benefit reached to farmers etc.
RTI Application dated 1.10.16 was submitted to PIO, Dept. of Water resources about details of water tax pending against the companies and steps taken by Govt. to recover water tax since 16 years of BJD Govt. On 27.10.16, the PIO, office of Engineer-in-Chief has supplied the following information.
1. Since 2000, water tax amounting Rs. 1886.64 crores is pending against 32 prominent Companies who have brough stay order from Odisha High Court. This is the arrear revenue as on 31.3.2016 has been locked up due to court cases. The court cases are going on since 16 years. Though the Chief Minister has kept this Dept. with him since last 16 years, he has not been able to vacate the cases in High Court. Even from the beginning, many efficient IAS officers like Bijay Patnaik, Sri Aurobido Behera, Sri Suresh Mohapatra and presently Sri Pradeep Jena have served as Secretary of this Water Resource Dept. But they have not succeeded to vacate stay in the court. Is it their inefficiency that they could not be able to fight against powerful companies or are they working under pressure from their boss to protect the interest of Corporate house. So it can be concluded that the Companies are enjoying unbridled power more than State Govt. in such way that they continue taking water from Mahanadi and other rivers without paying a single pie for several years. It is needless to mention here that the State Govt. has spent lakhs of rupees towards payment of fee for advocates to fight the case in High court without any tangible results. It has happened due to nexus of politicians and corrupt bureaucracy with companies. The interest of the State has been sacrificed by Sri Nabin Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha for corporate house.
2. It was also observed from the content of information supplied by the PIO that last hearing of the cases filed by Companies challenging fixation of water tax was held by High Court on 15.1.16. The Chief Engineer, water services has filed additional affidavit on 3.2.15 for 20 number of cases. Though one and half year passed, the Govt. could not ensure further hearing of the case by the Court on priority basis. This is the efficiency of the administration of the State Govt.?
3. The prominent Companies having arrear outstanding of water tax (whose case is pending in High court ) are Sewa Paper Mill, Jeypore ( 291.81 crores ), NALCO, Damanjodi ( 97.21 crore), M.C.L., Talcher ( 305.45 crore), M/s Orissa Power Consortium Ltd. ( 109.36 crore), Orient Paper Mill, Brajaraj Nagar ( 85.17 crore), Arati Steel ( 23.48 crore), Viraj Steel and Energy Ltd. ( 12.02 crore), NALCO, Angul ( 439.00 crore), Sri Mahavir Fello Alloys ( 20.38 crores). Reliance Industries, Dhenkanal ( 17.50 crore), Tata Refractories Ltd. ( 25.78 crore).
4. The total amount of Rs. 255.07 crore of arrear water tax revenue are outstanding against the 151 Companies without Court cases since 2000. The prominent companies from whom the State Govt. has not been able to collect water tax are M/s Bhusan Limited ( 29.71 crore), M/s Shyam DRI Pvt. Ltd. ( 40.93 crore), M/S ESPL Ltd. ( 8 crore), ESSAR Steel Ltd. ( 16.83 crore), Adhuik Metalliks ( 13.12 crore) etc.
5. On query about steps taken by Water Resources Dept. to collect pending water tax from the Companies, the PIO has said that as per decision taken in the meeting chaired by the Chief Secretary on 5.5.2015 with Advocate General, Principal Secretary, Law, the field level Executive Engineers were directed to file Misc. cases before High Court praying to direct the petitioner Industry to deposit 50% of outstanding water tax until final disposal of the case and vacation of stay order. Accordingly Misc. Case has been filed against 12 companies in High Court. But nothing has happened.
6. Despite several persuasion by High level officers to the Companies for quick payment of outstanding water Tax, they are not responding and continue to ignore Govt. appeal. This is the hopeless state of affairs in the State administration.