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Heated exchanges in Assembly over Cauvery issue

By S. Vydhianathan

CHENNAI, FEB. 5. The Cauvery water issue led to heated discussions between the Treasury and Opposition benches in the Tamil Nadu Assembly today.

While the Opposition members blamed the Government for its alleged failure to get the State's genuine entitlement, the Ministers blamed the Karnataka Government and the Central Congress leadership for the crisis.

It all started when the Communist Party of India member, V. Sivapunniyam, found fault with the Government for not taking adequate steps to get the State's share of water leading to the failure of samba paddy in delta districts.

Refuting the charge, the Finance Minister, C. Ponnaiyan, said the State had taken all possible measures to get its share. But it was Karnataka which refused to abide by the directives of the constitutionally and legally authorised federal dispute settlement mechanisms such as the Supreme Court, the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) and the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. It did not release even 89.771 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water, as per the distress-sharing formula evolved by the Central Water Commission. Besides, he said, Karnataka, which was authorised to raise crops on five lakh acres, increased it to 22 lakh acres.

Referring to the Opposition charge that the State did not participate in the CRA meeting convened by the Prime Minister, Mr. Ponnaiyan said he had attended the meeting on behalf of the Chief Minster. The Authority directed Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu. But it refused to abide the order, he said.

Criticising local Congress leaders for holding brief for Karnataka, the Minister asked why their leader, Sonia Gandhi, was remaining silent on the issue. It was unfortunate that she had not questioned the intransigence of the Congress Government in Karnataka.

Ms. Sonia Gandhi, the Karnataka Government and the Congress leaders in Tamil Nadu were all to blame for the present state of affairs.

Denying the allegation of G. Palanichamy (CPI) that direct purchase centres in delta districts were rejecting paddy from delta farmers by imposing stringent quality norms, the Minister said it was the Food Corporation of India and not the State Government that had prescribed the norms.

However, the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation, which was procuring paddy on behalf of the FCI in the delta districts, had opened 291 purchase centres and on an average about 1,000 tonnes of paddy was being procured by the Corporation.

He described the recent agitation by farmers who dumped paddy into the sea as "politically-motivated."

Earlier, Mr. Palanichamy complained that in the absence of sufficient purchase centres in the delta districts, the farmers resorted to distress sale of paddy.

The deputy leader, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam legislature party, Durai Murugan, L. Pugazhendi (DMK), Nanmaran of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and V.K. Lakshmanan (Congress) criticised the Government for its failure to rescue the farmers.

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