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New water policy for better regulation of usage: Ahluwalia

New Delhi, Nov 14 (IANS) The government is working on a new water policy which could regulate the manner in which it is used across the country and levy a charge on usage, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said Sunday.

‘There is a group of ministers under (Agriculture Minister) Sharad Pawar, which is looking at the new water policy. The department of water resources is supposed to give some inputs. We hope that in a few months we will have the planning commission’s take on the subject,’ he said.

‘As far as water is concerned in my view, water should be reasonably priced. It is not reasonably priced in most parts of the country, which is leading to wasteful use of water,’ Ahluwalia said while talking to reporters on the sidelines of the India Economic Summit.

When asked whether levying a charge on water would result in a political backlash, he said the a price on water usage would benefit everybody and differential pricing could be adopted to protect the poor.

‘I think trying to make this into a bogey is not a good thing. The regulators should decide what is the reasonable water rate. For the poorer parts of the city which could be 25-30 percent cheaper. But for the richer parts the rate should be suitably raised,’ said Ahluwalia.

About 80 percent of India’s water consumption happens on farms and with water being a state subject, a charge on its usage is expected to run into stiff opposition, especially at the state-level where political parties promise incentives like free power to woo the electorate.

‘In my view, we should charge for water and raise the procurement price. It gives the farmer every chance to economise his water use,’ said Ahluwalia.

‘In my meetings, I urge and beg chief ministers to shift policy in this direction. It is upto them if they do or not.’

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