Two bills providing for stringent punishments including two years' jail term for water theft were passed by the Gujarat Assembly on Friday. Congress MLAs opposed both the legislations, claiming them to be "anti-farmer" and "anti-people". Both the bills were passed by a majority vote.
Congress MLAs staged a brief walk-out during the discussion on 'The Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage (Amendment) Bill' which enhanced the jail term for stealing water from irrigation canals or damaging them. The bill was tabled by Energy Minister Saurabh Patel on behalf of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani who holds the irrigation portfolio.
As per the existing act, anyone found guilty of stealing water from canals or "damaging, piercing, destroying or endangering the stability of irrigation canal" can bepunished with three to six months of imprisonment. The amendment proposed separate punishment for each offence.
It provided for the maximum punishment of two years' imprisonment for damaging the canal to draw water illegally. Those found guilty of drawing water illegally without damaging the canal will face three months' imprisonment. The amendment also provides for three months jail term even for taking cattle into a canal for grazing when it does not have water.
A second bill that was passed today, 'Gujarat Domestic Water Supply (Protection) Bill', seeks to punish those who damage pipelines providing drinking water. The bill was tabled by Water Supply Minister Kunvarji Bavaliya.
Anyone found guilty of damaging a pipeline to draw water illegally will face two years' imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. Those found guilty of tampering with valves of a pipeline to draw water illegally would face six months in jail, said Bavaliya.
On the last day of the budget session, the Assembly also passed another bill proposing minor changes in The Gujarat Local Authorities and Town Planning Act.