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Minister puts blame on Congress

By Our Special Correspondent

JAIPUR, DEC. 14. The Rajasthan Public Works Department Minister, Rajendra Singh Rathore, has held the previous Congress regime responsible for creating a "wrong impression" among farmers regarding the availability of water in Indira Gandhi Canal, claiming that the misunderstanding led to their massive agitation and confrontation with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government.

Mr. Rathore, who went to Sriganganagar district as the Government's interlocutor last month, said the State Cabinet headed by the then Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, had decided in December 2000 to reduce water supply to Phase-I of the canal project from 5.23 cusecs per 1,000 acres to 3.5 cusecs without paying heed to farmers' requirement.

"The Congress Government never implemented the decision. This created a misunderstanding among farmers and they believed that the present Government would enforce the decision," Mr. Rathore said in an interaction with mediapersons at the Pink City Press Club here. He pointed out that the agreement reached with farmers' leaders last Saturday had protected precisely this share in the canal waters.

He said the talks initiated by him and his two Cabinet colleagues with the farmers' representatives in Ghadsana and Rawala had prepared the ground for further negotiations leading to withdrawal of agitation. "Neither our talks were a failure nor did we indulge in any kind of politics. We created an atmosphere conducive to rapprochement between the Government and farmers," he affirmed.

The Home Minister, Gulab Chand Kataria, and Irrigation Minister, Sanwarlal Jat, had accompanied Mr. Rathore to Sriganganagar district. Asked whether the credit for success in talks had been unduly taken by other negotiators, Mr. Rathore said he had highlighted the same issues while trying to convince the farmers in favour of ending their agitation.

The Minister said the paucity of water in the north-western parts of the State had been created by the reduction in supply from Pong dam and the breach in the canal near Anupgarh.

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