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PM assures Gujarat MPs on dam construction; Cong calls off 'bandh'

By Staff
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New Delhi, Apr 16 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmoham Singh has assured an all-party delegation from Gujarat, including parliamentarians from the Congress and BJP, which met him here today that construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam would not be stopped.

The delegation which called on the Prime Minister at his official residence told reporters that Dr Singh assured them that the construction of the dam would not be stopped in the larger interest of the people of the state.

The MPs met the Prime Minister following yesterday's meeting of the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority which failed to reach a consensus on the Centre's proposal to suspend contruction of the dam until resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected families was completed.

BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley, who was part of the delegation, said the Prime Minister gave a patient hearing to them.

''We believe that work will not be stopped,'' he said adding that the Sardar Sarovar Dam was the lifeline of Gujarat and there was no justification for reviewing its height.

''The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) had taken a unanimous decision to increase the height of the dam and nobody had the authority to review it.'' Concurring with him, Union Textile Minister and Congress MP Shankar Sinh Vaghela said all parties in Gujarat were solidly behind the construction of the dam and there was no justification for stopping the work.

Meanwhile, Media Advisor to the PM Sanjay Baru told reporters that Dr Singh told the delegation that no decision had been taken on stopping work at the dam site because increase in the height of the multi-purpose dam from 110.64 metres to 121.92 metres were as per the Supreme Court directive.

''The Prime Minister told the delegation that as long as the rehabilation process was in progress, there was no question of stopping the construction of the dam. How can anyone go against the Supreme Court directive?'' He said the PM was going through the report submitted by Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, 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, along with the report on yesterday's Review Committee meet of the Narmada Control Authority.

The PM was keen that some legal mechanism be evolved to expedite the rehabilitation and resettlement measures of the dam oustees, Mr Baru said adding that the PM also said the Narmada Sagar Dam was a developmental issue and directly linked with the availibility of water to the people in several states.

Media Advisor to the Prime Minister Sanjay Baru said, Dr Singh heard the MPs and was deeply concerned about the rehabilitaion and resettlement of the affected families. ''The Prime Minister told the delegation that as long as the rehabilation process was in progress there was no question of stopping the construction of the dam,'' Mr Baru said.

Later talking to reporters BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley, who was part of the delegation, said the Prime Minister has assured that the ongoing construction work on the dam would not be stopped.

''The Prime Minister gave patient hearing and we believe that work will not be stopped,'' Mr Jaitley added.

Congress MP Bharat Singh Solanki, who was also part of the delegation, said ''all political parties in Gujarat are unanimous that there should not be any lowering in the height of the dam.'' He also said following Dr Singh's assurance, the Gujarat Congress has decided not to go ahead with the 'bandh' call in the state today.

''There is no need for further discussion on the dam height issue as it had been fixed by the Supreme Court and the only issue is the rehabilitation and resettlement of the dam oustees which needs to be streamlined,'' Mr Solanki added.

Yesterday, a crucial meeting of the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) remained deadlocked with the BJP-ruled states opposing the Centre's proposal for suspending the proposed increase in the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam till rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of the dam oustees was completed.

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.

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

UNI

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