New Delhi, July 26 Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti on Tuesday said the state of Odisha is very close to her heart and asserted that the central government will not do anything or allow anything to happen that will hamper its interests.
"Odisha is a beloved state of ours. We cannot do anything or allow anything to happen that will put the state into any crisis," Bharti told the Lok Sabha while replying to a motion moved by agitated members of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
Calling for the minister's "attention" on the impact of the Hirakud dam being constructed by the state of Chhattisgarh on the Mahanadi river, BJD floor leader Bhartruhari Mahtab and his party colleagues including Tathagatha Sathpathy and Kalikesh Singh Deo wanted to know if Odisha was being discriminated against because it chose a "different socio-political path" and elects a regional party government.
Bharti also maintained that water should not be made a reason for a "fight", rather it should be used as a unifying factor.
"Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a slogan of 'Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas' (A government with all and for development of all). And thus we will try to take all the states along," Bharti maintained.
Minister of State for Water Resources Sanjeev Kumar Balyan said the central government came into the picture only about one and a half months ago after Odisha wrote formally seeking the union government's intervention.
"We proposed a tripartite meeting in June as a mediator. While Chhattisgarh government agreed to come, the Odisha government sought more time. Now the meeting is slated on July 29. Hence all issues can be brought there," Balyan said.
Criticising the Chhattisgarh government for launching construction activities without taking into account the interests of the people of Odisha, Mahtab said the central government should intervene.
On July 20, BJD members had staged a demonstration in Parliament House complex against the barrage project.
BJD leaders said there was "an agreement" in 1983 between the then governments of Madhya Pradesh and Odisha on how the river water is to be shared if new embankments or new reservoirs are to be constructed.
Mahanadi contributes the maximum water for irrigation in Odisha and sustains the livelihood of the farmers of 15 districts, including Bargarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Sundergarh and Bolangir.