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Narmada dam meet deadlocked; Modi chides UPA

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 15: A crucial meeting of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to review the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam and rehabilitation measures for the oustees remained deadlocked with the BJP-ruled states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan opposing the Centre's proposal for lowering the dam height, which was supported by Maharashtra.

Talking to reporters after the nearly three-hour-long meeting, presided over by Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz and attended by Environment Minister A Raja and the chief ministers of four Narmada co-basin states, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi lashed out at the Centre for proposing the lowering of the dam height from 121.92 metres.

''The issue will now not be referred to the Prime Minister for the final view as the matter was deadlocked at the NCA meeting itself,'' Mr Modi told reporters, who jostled to get his views on the dam controversy. He also claimed that three-fourths of the co-basin states were in favour of retaining the proposed dam height, which had the sanction of the Supreme Court, while only Maharashtra ''played politics'' by siding with the Centre.

Mr Modi also warned that the Centre would be responsible for any backlash against the attempts to thwart this development scheme and enormous financial loss that the four states would have to suffer.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan concurred with his Gujarat counterpart's contention, merely stating that the meeting remained deadlocked.

However, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh refused to say anything to reporters who stood outside Shram Shakti Bhavan, the headquarters of the Water Resources Ministry.

Mr Modi said the Centre came out with a distinct proposal at todays meeting to lower the proposed height of the dam, which was initially fixed at 110.64 metre and later increased to 121.92 meter. Among the four resolutions that came up at the meeting was the one favouring the construction of the dam at the proposed height as well as simultaneous undertaking of the rehabilitation measures for the dam oustees, which also remained inconclusive.

Launching a blistering attack on Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar, whose indefinite fast against the dam entered the 18th day today, Mr Modi said, ''The Centre has lost the courage to face up the agitation and is acting under the NBA pressure.'' Because of this, the construction as well as rehabilitaion work will suffer, he said, adding that over Rs 45 crore had so far been spent on the ressettlement measures.

''The Centre's posture is very unfortunate as it amounts to a deviation from the Supreme Court award which stipulates that the dam construction and resttlement work should go together.'' Mr Modi was more scathing against his Maharashtra counterpart, saying he chose to act under his party's whip, ignoring the fact that the construction of the dam by June would generate 1450 MW of power.

''His politics will keep Mumbai in darkness and also deprive the three other states of benefits of drinking watr and irrigation facilities accruing from the dam,'' he said.

Mr Modi gave ample hints of launching an agitation against the Centre's position on the dam. ''We will continue to exert pressure on the Centre in a democratic and peaceful manner. If any untoward incident takes place, the onus will be on the Centre.'' The agitation in Gujarat has, in fact, already started with a group of youths burning the psters and effigies of cine actor Aamir Khan, who has lent his support to the anti-dam agitation.


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