Odisha accuses Centre of dragging feet on Mahanadi tribunal with eye on Chhattisgarh polls
BJD legislators turned the heat on the BJP-led central government in the assembly over the Mahanadi tribunal, accusing it of conspiring against Odisha.india Updated: Apr 12, 2018 01:27 IST
Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Wednesday accused the Centre of delaying formation of Mahanadi river water disputes tribunal, alleging that this was being done with an eye on Chhattisgarh polls this year.
BJD legislators turned the heat on the BJP-led central government in the assembly, where the budget session resumed after an 11-day break, and said it was conspiring against Odisha.
House proceedings were adjourned following din over the tribunal and BJD legislators trooped out for a demonstration on the assembly premises.
“The terms of reference (for forming the tribunal) have not been communicated yet to the chief secretary. Why is the Centre dilly-dallying on forming the tribunal? We will continue our fight to safeguard Odisha’s interests,” said BJD chief whip Amar Prasad Satpathy.
Last month, the Centre announced a three-member tribunal headed by Supreme Court judge Justice AM Khanwilkar would be formed to adjudicate the equitable sharing of Mahanadi water between Odisha and Chhattisgarh. In January, dismissing the Centre’s arguments, the SC had asked it to form the tribunal.
The river, which runs 851 km before draining into Bay of Bengal, fuels lower riparian Odisha’s economy and agriculture. The river courses through at least 20 of Odisha’s 30 districts.
BJD MLA Samir Das said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power at the Centre and in upper riparian Chhattisgarh, and it was evident why Odisha’s interests were being ignored. “The Centre is trying very hard to help Chhattisgarh in the Mahanadi case. Why are the terms of reference taking so much time?”
BJD leaders are gearing up to discuss the issue with Union minister of state for water resources, Arjun Ram Meghwal, at a meeting on inter-state river disputes on April 16.
Meghwal is scheduled to meet representatives of five states, including Odisha and Chhattisgarh, at the meeting. A day before meeting Meghwal, the BJD has convened a meeting of all elected representatives of the districts affected by drying up of Mahanadi after Chhattisgarh closed gates of Kalma barrage.
BJD leader Prasanna Acharya said Chhattisgarh had closed 66 gates of Kalma barrage leaving Mahanadi extraordinarily dry in early summer. “This has severely affected the Mahanadi-dependent districts in Odisha,” said Acharya.
BJD leaders are also opposing Chhattisgarh’s move to construct a barrage on Maini river. “It will adversely affect Ib river, a tributary of Mahanadi, and lead to water scarcity in Odisha,” said Acharya.
Former Odisha water resources minister and BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra too said the delay over the tribunal was not helping the state. “The Centre has already taken enough time to constitute a tribunal. Now, it should immediately announce the terms of reference and try to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” he said.
Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik said even though the Supreme Court asked the Centre to take quick action, it was dragging its feet. “This shows it has no concern for Odisha and is only trying to favour Chhattisgarh,” said Patnaik, a former state Congress president.
BJP legislator Pradip Purohit, however, said BJD was resorting to “drama” over the tribunal.
Reacting to the day’s developments in the assembly, BJP general secretary and the party’s Odisha in-charge, Arun Singh, said the Mahanadi issue could not be resolved as long as the BJD was in power. “Once we come to power, the Mahanadi issue can be resolved in six months,” Singh, who reached Bhubaneswar for a party meeting, told journalists.
Told about the developments in Odisha and BJD’s allegation that the Centre was deliberately going slow on the tribunal, Chhattisgarh water resources minister Brijmohan Agrawal said, “We do not do politics over water.”
He added, “One gate is open at Kalma barrage. There is less rainfall, so there is less water.”
(With inputs from Ritesh Mishra, Raipur)
First Published: Apr 12, 2018 01:27 IST