Water on concurrent list, Nelp-like bidding for mines: Chawla panel

A high-powered panel appointed by the government to recommend a transparent allocation mechanism for scarce natural resources is likely to recommend bringing ‘water’ under the concurrent list of the Constitution and shift to a market-linked allotment of such resources from the present administered pricing model.
Regarding coal and mines bidding, a source in the committee said they were likely to suggest emulating the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP). This will address all resources under the rug — oil, gas and coal bed methane.
The committee was appointed on February 8 this year under the chairmanship of former finance secretary Ashok Chawla and secretaries of key ministries as members. The panel will set broad principles based on which natural resources, including land, water, gas, coal, mines and spectrum would be allocated.
“We are proposing water to be brought under the concurrent list of the constitution so that, at least, a guiding framework for ground water can be prepared,” a member in the panel said. While some states do have a guiding framework, they do not exist in other states.
Under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India, water has been placed as the 17th entry in List-II (state list), which says, “Water, that is to say, water supplies, irrigation and canals, drainage and embankments, water storage and water power subject to the provisions of entry 56 of List I.”

List I pertains to the Union list, which as regard water in entry 56 says, “regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent to which such regulation and development under the control of the Union is declared by Parliament by law to be expedient in the public interest.” The Centre has, however, never exercised the option so far.

Sources said that bringing water under the concurrent list will help in effectively resolving inter-state water disputes. It will ensure equal say of both the states and the Centre in related matters.

Earlier also, there have been debates about bringing the natural resource under the List III because of the delay in resolving inter-state water disputes.
The committee is of the view that bidding norms for oil and gas blocks under NELP was time tested and functioning well. In fact, in the allocation of spectrum, despite the controversy of the 2G spectrum, the auction system had worked well. The committee is planning to propose auction of coal mines, the source added.
The committee is likely to submit its report by mid-June and will make recommendations on the overall mechanism of allocating resources and take a sectoral view. One of its terms of reference is to find models that do not compromise on public welfare for profit maximisation. The committee is working closely with the Centre for Policy Research in the matter.

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