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NGOs, health groups oppose law denying water

Wednesday 13 April 2005

By Our Special Correspondent

MUMBAI, APRIL 12. Over a dozen non-governmental organisations, health groups and women’s groups have opposed a new law proposed in Maharashtra that will in effect deny irrigation water to farmers who have more than two children after the law is enacted. Calling the law ``retrograde’’ and ``coercive,’’ these groups are objecting to a provision in the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Bill, 2003, that was passed by the legislative council on April 7, that states that ``a person having more than two children shall not be eligible to entitlement of water for agriculture.’’

In a letter sent to the Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, today, one of these groups, Population First, points out that the provision is ``against the principles of democracy, especially when viewed from the perspective of informed choices and reproductive rights.’’ It states that this is also contrary to the National Population Policy and the Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 of which India was a signatory.

Another leading health rights group, Cehat, has also voiced its opposition to the provision in the law. Ravi Duggal from Cehat told The Hindu that his group was concerned and that it would consider moving a public interest litigation petition if the law was passed.

Activists point out that the framers of the law, the State Irrigation Department that is headed by the Irrigation Minister, Ajit Pawar, did not consult the Health and Family Welfare Department before including this provision in the law. ``Officials told us that they read about this provision in the newspapers,’’ a health activist said. At present, the law has not come into force, as it has not yet been tabled in the Assembly.

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