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Narmada dam talks deadlocked

Gargi Parsai

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi plans to go on 51-hour fast from today

  • Matter to be reported to Manmohan Singh
  • Lack of conclusive decision expected: NBA
  • Reports of resettlement have no relevance to ground situation, says GoM

    COMPLEX ISSUE: Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz (third from right), and Union Environment Minister A. Raja (third from left), at a review meeting of the Narmada Control Authority in New Delhi on Saturday. The others (from left) are: Chief Ministers S.S. Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh), Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Vilasrao Deshmukh (Maharashtra), and Vasundhara Raje Scindia (Rajasthan). — Photo: V. Sudershan

    NEW DELHI: The meeting of the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority (RCNCA) here on Saturday failed to achieve a consensus on the Centre's proposal to suspend the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam until resettlement and rehabilitation of the project-affected families was completed.

    The matter would be reported to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    The dam issue is also coming up in the Supreme Court on Monday.

    The Government said: "It was open to the Supreme Court to consider whether the construction of the dam should be temporarily suspended till such time as rehabilitation and resettlement of the project-affected families is done in consonance with its directions."

    The Centre moved the proposal based on the report of the three-member Group of Ministers (GoM) led by Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, which visited rehabilitation sites in Madhya Pradesh last week.

    The ministerial team has categorically stated: "The reports of the rehabilitation and resettlement sub-group and the Grievance Redressal Authority, on the basis of which the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) granted permission for raising the height, have been largely paperwork and it has no relevance to the situation on the ground."

    Vertical split

    The meeting saw a vertical spilt along party lines with the BJP-ruled Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan opposing the Centre's resolution, and the Ministers of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, Saifuddin Soz and A. Raja, and the Chief Minister of the Congress-ruled Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh, supporting it.

    There was also no consensus on three separate resolutions moved by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan on endorsing the NCA's decision to allow Gujarat to raise the height of the dam from 110.64 to 121.92 metres.

    Speaking to mediapersons, Mr. Soz said the RCNCA recognised the need for constructing the dam as it would provide benefits to the basin States. "However, there was no consensus on whether construction of the dam should be suspended in view of the fact that rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected families had not been done to the satisfaction of therequirement laid down by the Supreme Court."

    Modi's criticism

    Mr. Modi criticised the UPA Government for attempting to stall construction in the face of the fast by Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar.

    He told reporters that he would go on a 51-hour fast from 2 p.m. on Sunday on the banks of the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad.

    Mr. Modi said the matter could not be referred to the Prime Minister as there was a tie on that issue as well. "Only the committee can decide if an unresolved issue can be referred to the Prime Minister for his decision [which would be final and binding]." Asked how the issue could then be resolved, he said, "The Government should evolve a political consensus on it."

    Mr. Raja said Mr. Chauhan accepted at the meeting that there were some delay and lacunae in resettlement and rehabilitation of the dam-displaced people in Madhya Pradesh.

    Truth and untruth: NBA

    Mr. Chauhan said his State was committed to the rehabilitation of the displaced people.

    The NBA said it was not unexpected that there would be no conclusive decision. "The tie is between truth and untruth, between democratic values and selfish party politics."

    Ms. Patkar, whose condition worsened on the 18th day of her fast on Saturday, would continue the protest seeking justice for the dam-displaced population.

    Advani phones Manmohan

    PTI reports:

    BJP leader L.K. Advani telephoned Dr. Singh and urged him to end the stalemate over raising the height of the dam.

    He said both the Congress and the ruling BJP in Gujarat were united. Mr. Advani, urged Dr. Singh "to show leadership."

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