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Narmada dam meeting deadlocked; Gujarat CM lambasts Centre

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Apr 15 (UNI) A crucial meeting of the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) here today witnessed a vertical split on political lines with the BJP-ruled states opposing the Centre's proposal for suspending the proposed increase in the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam till the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of the dam oustees was completed.

Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, who presided over the three-hour meeting attended by Environment Minister A Raja and the chief ministers of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, said R&R measures should have been completed 18 months before work was undertaken to raise the height of the multi-purpose dam to 121.92 meters from 110.64 meters as per the Supreme Court directive.

''The Centre proposed the resolution at the meeting to suspend the increase in the height as R&R works have not been done as per the Supreme Court order and the directive of the Narmada Award Tribunal,'' Prof. Soz said.

The resolution, which was backed by the Congress-ruled Maharashtra, however, fell flat because there was a tie of three votes each for and against it. While Prof. Soz, Mr A Raja and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh voted in favour of the resolution, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan opposed it.

The three other resolutions, including the one seeking the construction work for the proposed increase in the dam height and simultaneous R&R work, also resulted in a tie, with the two sides striking an adamant posture.

While Mr Raja said the minutes of today's meeting had been sent to the Prime Minister as per a provision of the Narmada Sagar Dam construction project, Mr Modi said the matter could not be referred to the PM because the issue remained deadlocked at the meeting.

''The issue continues to be with the NCA, and it cannot be sent to the Prime Minister,'' he asserted.

Accusing Mr Modi of politicising the issue, Prof. Soz made it clear that the Centre was not against the construction work as well as the increase in the height of the dam, but it had to observe the Supreme Court's directions on R&R measures.

However, Mr Modi squarely blamed the UPA government for impeding the ongoing construction of the dam and also proposing a reduction in the height of the dam under the pressure from Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar, whose indefinite fast against the dam entered its 18th day here today.

The Water Resources Minister, who, along with Social Welfare Minister Meira Kumar and Minister of State in the PMO Prithvi Raj Chauhan, had visited the dam rehabilitation sites last week, said R&R works in the 12 such sites were found to be tardy and unsatisfactory.

''On this basis, the Centre has proposed suspension of the increase in the height of the dam,'' he added.

MORE UNI/JSS/SKS PK RN1622

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