NATIONAL WATER RESOURCES COUNCIL
The National water Resources Council (NWRC) constituted in 1983 has made significant changes in the existing water policy of 1987 by announcing the modified National Water Policy, 2002. It provides for setting up of River Basin Organizations (RBOs) by States for the planned development and management of a river basin as a whole or sub-basins wherever necessary. The policy says that the scope and powers of river basin organizations shall be decided by the basin state themselves. The priorities, however, can be modified depending on regional considerations.
The new policy would provide a framework for individual states to evolve their own water policies backed by a two-year action plan, laying emphasis on integrated water resources development and management for optimal and sustainable utilization of the available surface and groundwater. At the same time, the Centre would also prepare an action plan to support implementation at the State level.
The policy also emphasizes for the dam safety legislation to ensure proper inspection, maintenance and surveillance. It also calls for national resettlement and rehabilitation of project affected people.The ecology has been given priority in water allocation; minimum flows in perennial streams mandated. With the passage of the inter-state Water Disputes (Amendment) Act by Parliament, it will now be possible to settle the inter-state water disputes in a time-bound manner as the Tribunals have to give their final decision within a maximum of six years.
The modified policy has also provided for participatory approach to water management, including water users associations, private sector and modern information system. Non-conventional methods of water conservation like rain harvesting, artificial recharge of ground water, inter-basin transfers, desalination of brackish or seawater stressed.
Nevertheless, the sensitive issue of allocation of water among states has been ignored and the problems still remains. On this issue the guidelines would be referred to the National Water Board (BWB) for review and for evolving a consensus.
Water Councils: The so-called National Water Policy, 1987 has failed to ensure farmers’ participation in the water management. Therefore, there is an imperative need for water councils to ensure people-oriented sustainable development. An irrigation system depends too much on the people. A proper coordination between the irrigation department and people is must. Irrigation department should supply a predetermined quantity of water at the distributary head and outlet points.
The beneficiaries below the outlet should take up the responsibility of distributing water among themselves based on mutually agreeable method on the basis of regional and local conditions. The maintenance of the system upto the distributary should be the sole responsibility of irrigation department. The local people would manage the area between the distributary and the outlet with the help of the irrigation department. The repair and other technical support will be given by the department. This approach would definitely ensure better people’s participation and will enhance a greater sense of accountability.
NATIONAL COMMISSION TO REVIEW CONSTITUTION
The 11-member National Commission to Review the working of the Constitution (NCRWC) has submitted its report to the Government. The Commission was headed by Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah and Subhas C Kashyap was the Chairman to the drafting and the editorial committee. The Commission was set up to review the working of the Constitution and to examine in the light of the last 50 years, the needs of modern India within the framework of parliamentary democracy and recommend changes, if any, without
interfering with Constitution’s basic feature.
Besides Mr. Justice Venkatachaliah, other members of the panel were justice B P Jeevan Reddy, justice R. S. Sarkaria, Justice K Punnayya, Soli Sorabjee, K. Parasaran, Subhas Kashyap, C R Irani, Abid Hussain, Sumita Kulkarani and P A Sangma (who lets resigned).
Most of the recommendations are yet to be published. Nevertheless, the NCRWC has not recommended a uniform civil code and there is no mention about the people of foreign origin occupying constitutional post regarding the use of Article 356, the Commission recommended to use it only in very difficult circumstances.
Recommendations on Electoral Reforms
1. First-past-the-post system of elections to the Lok Sabha and to the assemblies be replaced by a two-ballot system of election.
2. There should be a ceiling on election expenses.
3. Working of the political par ties be regulated by law.
4. In order to ensure decriminalization on the election process, the commission wanted the 10th Schedule to be amended to debar defectors from holding public office, as also to empower the Election Commission to decide on the qualification in the matter of defections.
5. The CEC and other ECs to be appointed by a statutory panel, consisting of the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Speaker and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha. The Chief election Commissioner (CEC) and other two Election Commissioners (ECs) be removed in the manner and grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.
6. The CEC will be ineligible for any appointment or office under the Government after his term.
7. It also refused to endorse the idea of state funding of the elections.
Recommendations on Voting and Defection
1. In order to avoid defection the commission has suggested that for motions like a vote of confidence or no-confidence, vote of thanks to the President or Governor on a money bill, the members would cast their votes individually but the result would be decided by adding the values of ‘bloc-votes’ and not by adding the individual votes.
2. As per these provisions, every political party in the House shall have only one bloc vote.
3. In order to cur tail the discretionar y power of the President, the commission clearly says that the leader of the House should be elected on the floor of the House.
Recommendation on SC/ST/BCs
In order to have deeper empowerment of the SC/ ST/BCs, the panel recommended job reservation in the private sector. The national Commission for SC/ ST/BCs minorities, women, and safai karamcharis should effectively function as ombudsman for different deprived classes. It says a Tribunal for Justice in Reservation be set up to “adjudicate in all cases and disputes pertaining to reservation in post and vacancies in Government”.
The Tribunal for Justice in Reservation will have the power of High Court. Its chairperson, vice-chairperson and other members be selected on the basis of their record in the implementation of reservation in their position. Statute should have a penal provision, including imprisonment of those convicted of wilfully or negligently failing to implement reservation statute and related-constitutional amendments be brought into Ninth schedule.
The other provisions for the tribals are :
(a) massive programme of employment be undertaken and expanded ;
(b) establishment of residential schools for SCs and STs in every district;
(c) separate schools to be set up for BCs with special attention to Most Backward Classes among BCs.
(d) the proportion in these schools should be 75 per cent weaker section and 25 per cent other categories; and
(e) all areas governed by the Fifth Schedule should be forthwith transferred to the Sixth Schedule extending the applicability of the Sixth Schedule to tribal areas other than north-eastern states.
On Fundamental Rights
The Article 19 dealing with the Fundamental Rights should be enlarged. The commission has recommended inclusion of certain new fundamental rights like
(a) freedom of the press,
(b) the right to elementary education,
(e) the right to education,
(f) the right to compensation of a person is illegally deprived of his right of life or liberty, and
(g) the right to leave and return to country, no preventive detention for more than six months.
Most significantly, the panel has suggested a right to ‘suitable rehabilitation’ for the Adivasis and Dalits if their land was to be acquired. In the light of
Narmada issue, the Article 300A has to be amended to ensure that “no deprivation or acquisition of agricultural, forest and non-urban homestead land belonging to or customarily used by the SC/ST shall take place except by authority of law which provides for suitable rehabilitation scheme before taking possession of such land.
The Right to Religious Freedom has been made ‘non-suspendable’.
(a) The imposition of Article 356 in the case of subversive activities.
(b) Decentralization, Centre-State relation and the pace of socio-economic change have been emphasized.
(c) On minorities, the commission has highlighted their inadequate representation, especially of Muslims in Parliament and suggested that the Government to take appropriate measures to improve it.
(d) There should be a provision of the reservation for Muslims in educational institutions with a special emphasis on Muslim girls.
(e) The election of the PM by the Lok Sabha.
(f) It has also recommended for the constitution of a National Judicial Commission (NJC), the NJC will recommend to examine complaints of deviant behavour of the Supreme Court and High Court judges.
Altogether, the NCRWS made as many as 58 recommendations involving amendments to the Constitutions, 86 involving legislative measures and 106 others which could be accomplished through executive action.
There was some disagreement amongst the members over some of the provisions. Subhas C.
Kashyap has alleged that 10 per cent of the draft report has been changed without his consent. Sumitra Kulkarni has also showed her anger over the lack of debate in the public. Nevertheless, a proper analysis of the report can be made only after the proper publication of the report. We have to wait and see to what extent the proposed changes are compatible with requirements of globalizat ion.