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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Modi fasts for Narmada dam, calls Soz ignorant

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi began his 51-hour hunger strike to protest the Centre's stand on the Sardar Sarovar dam height issue.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2006 13:50 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi Sunday criticised Central water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz for his "undue" interference on the issue of Sardar Sarovar dam in the state, as he launched a 51-hour fast here to protest the "anti-development" stance of the central government.

Modi arrived at the GMDC grounds near the Gujarat University accompanied by Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Vajubhai Vala, all cabinet ministers and some religious leaders, including Swami Sachchidananda, and started his fast at 2 p.m.

Several people, including some ministers, volunteered to join Modi in his protest by going on a token hunger strike.

The chief minister had announced his plan for the hunger strike in New Delhi Saturday after attending a meeting of the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority (RCNCA), called by Soz to reconsider a decision taken last month to raise the height of the dam under construction in central Gujarat.

Addressing a large gathering, he came down heavily on Soz, calling him ignorant and a first-timer, who was unaware of the details of the project and had created problems with his intention to halt its construction.

"If the minister called the NCA (Namrada Control Authority) decision to increase the height of the dam after so much of surveillance 'premature', I think his statement is immature," Modi said.

"His statement has strengthened the morale of the (anti-dam) activists. This suggests that they are hand in glove with each other," he added.

Terming the central team's visit to rehabilitation sites in Madhya Pradesh as unconstitutional, Modi criticised the central government for its "disinterested" approach over the dam issue.

"The decision to call a meeting of the review committee should have been made by its chairman (Soz), but the Cabinet Committee for Political Affairs called the meeting. This shows that something is going wrong somewhere," the chief minister said.

"Sending a team for inspection, (anti-dam) activists going on a fast, calling the review committee meeting - these are part of a pre-planned conspiracy to harm the interest of Gujarat. The central government wants to hand over official documents to the activists so that they can fight against the state in the Supreme Court on the basis of these documents," claimed Modi.

He warned that the state would "never tolerate the conspiracy of fudging documents to influence the Supreme Court".

Modi also ridiculed Soz for appealing to him personally "to hold the construction work on the dam on humanitarian grounds", claiming that the activists had harmed the development process in the state.

The chief minister was referring to the protests from Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar whose hunger strike since March 29 seeking rehabilitation of the project-affected people had prompted the central government to reconsider the dam height decision.

"If hunger strike is the solution, we will also show them. Each one of 50 million Gujaratis is ready to take to fasting - they don't know that," Modi said.

The Sardar Sarovar dam project on the Narmada river promises to deliver water to drought-prone Saurashtra and Kutch regions of the state, even as its critics including NBA allege several lacunae in the rehabilitation of the people, mostly tribals in the Narmada valley in the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, whose lands would be submerged because of the dam.

First Published: Apr 16, 2006 15:59 IST