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Himachal looks to Centre for securing share in Bhakra-Beas projects

Shimla: Emboldened by the Supreme Court directive asking the central government to play a mediator role in attempting a ‘negotiated settlement’ over sharing of hydropower between Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan in Bhakra and Beas projects, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has sought an early convening of meeting to trash out the long pending dispute.

“The ball is in the centre’s court. Despite the Supreme Court directing the central government on 29th April to hold a meeting with the disputing states within 3 weeks, we have received no intimation about one being held so far,” said Dhumal. “The power minister should call the meeting at the earliest, where we can present our case, said the chief minister, who also holds charge of power ministry.

The court’s directive came about on a civil suit filed by Himachal Pradesh under Article 138 of the constitution filed on 6th June, 1996 demanding legitimate share of 7.19% in Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) projects under the Punjab Re-organisation Act 1966 as well as allowing 12% free power from these projects. The state has also laid claim to arrears from the revenues accruing from these projects.

Before examining the matter on merit, the Court has granted a 3 month period for the centre “to bring all the parties to the dispute to a negotiated settlement,”

The over 4 decade old inter-state dispute is over sharing of power from the 1380 MW Bhakra-Nangal project, 990 MW Beas Unit I project (Dehar) and the 360 MW Beas Unit II project (Pong) project.

On the basis of ‘population ratio’ of ‘transferred territories’, Himachal laid claim to its proportional power share in 22.10.1969.
Former chief minister Shanta Kumar adds that even the union territory of Chandigarh was allocated 3.5 % power from Bhakra project, but Himachal was given only 2.6 percent. “It was after much persuasion that the Morajee Desai government allocated additional 15 MW power on ad hoc basis from Dehar project,” he said.

Dhumal pointed out that even the one man committee of KS Subrahamanyam, ex-chairman central electricity authority (CEA) constituted in 1978 to recommend final share among partner states also held out that Himachal should be allocated 7.19 % share but the central government did not act on the recommendations.

The state was seeking 12% free power as compensation for the thousands of hectares of arable land getting permanently inundated and several thousands of people being uprooted by these projects – leaving behind a problem re-settlement that the state is still groping with.

Whereas Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have consistently denied claims of Himachal Pradesh and was only counted as an ad-hoc partner state in BBMB in 1987, Dhumal says that there are several documents from the central government clearly stating that allocation of rights and liabilities from Bhakra Nangal & Beas projects amongst successor states was only an ad-hoc arrangement and was subject to final settlement.

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