Even as the Opposition Congress on Tuesday staged a walkout alleging that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government had given relaxations in hydropower policy against state interests, MPP and Power Minister Anil Sharma categorically rebutted the accusation.

The minister said the government had amended the policy to give a push to the hydropower sector in Himachal Pradesh, which was the source of income for the state but was stuck for past many years. He said HP would benefit from it in long run. “Some amendments have been done in view of the growing competition in hydro sector with Uttrakhand,” Sharma said.

He said the previous Congress government had also given relaxations to the allotted hydropower projects in their tenure in a similar manner to ensure growth in this sector. He said the previous government had not only brought down upfront premium to be paid by hydro projects drastically, but had deferred 12 per cent free power benefit from 1400 MW power projects allotted on Chenab basin.

Initiating discussion on the hydropower policy earlier, leader of opposition, Mukesh Agnihotri said the changes in the power policy by present BJP government reflected a total surrender before the power mafia.

He said the government had deferred the benefits that accrue to the state from power projects in the form of 12 per cent free power to facilitate the hydropower companies. “The state would lose income with such a provision. What for are we promoting the hydro projects, if the state will not get any benefits,” he said.

Agnihotri said the amendments that Electricity Board would buy entire power from power projects upto a certain capacity, that No Objection Certificates would be processed by government and that the environment clearance is not required for projects upto 25 MW were not in the benefit of the state.

“We are surrendering our income in an attempt to facilitate the private companies,” he said. He said the government had not only exempted allotted as well as commissioned projects, which smacked of scam in the amendments made.

He said CM Jai Ram Thakur was talking about royalty for water used by other states, but when the Himachal government is giving all the benefits to investors in the hydro sectors at the cost of state interest, HP’s claim for royalty on power by other states would get weakened.

Congress MLAs, Harshwardhan Chauhan and Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu also questioned the government on the recent amendments in the hydropower policy in Himachal and said the government had compromised with the state’s income by giving relaxations to the power developers with regard to the upfront premium and free power.

After this, when the MPP and Power minister, Anil Sharma stated giving reply by reading out the amendments first, the Congress members got up and said the minister should better answer the questions raised by the Congress party on the amendments. In the midst of charged environs, with BJP members also replying to Congress accusations, the opposition members staged a walkout from the House.

Speaker, Dr Rajiv Bindal said he had given enough time to the Congress members to raise the issue and had accommodated one additional member to put forth his views. He termed the Congress action unjustified.

Parliamentary Affairs minister, Suresh Bhardwaj condemned the Congress walkout and said it was over a nonissue.