Bhubaneswar: The ruling BJD upped its ante against the Chhattisgarh government over the Mahanadi issue and staged a rally at Master Canteen Square followed by a demonstration in the city here today.
During the protest, the BJD activists burnt the effigy of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and warned that the party would continue its protest until and unless the Mahanadi issue is not solved. Several party leaders and activists, including MLA Priyadarshi Mishra and BMC Mayor Ananta Narayan Jena took part in the rally.
MLA Priyadarshi Mishra said despite several discussions and appeals by the state government, the Chhattisgarh government has not stopped the construction works on the upper catchment of river Mahanadi. Accusing the BJP at the Centre is hand in glove with the Chhattisgarh government, he said it is the constitutional responsibility of the Centre to direct the latter to stop the construction work at least till formation of an expert committee over the issue. But the Centre has not taken any step in this regard.
BMC Mayor Ananta Narayan Jena said, “The BJP national president visited the state yesterday. The party leaders criticised the state government on various grounds. But no one raised the two major issues-Mahandai and Polavaram- at the meeting. This shows the real face of the saffron party leaders.”
He further said the BJD would now intensify its agitation against the step-motherly attitude of the Centre and continue its stir till the matter is not solved.
In the meanwhile, reacting against the complaint petition filed by the Odisha government with the Water Resources ministry for formation of an inter-state water disputes tribunal, Chhattisgarh Water Resources minister Brijmohan Agrawal said the Odisha government does not want to resolve the case as it is trying to linger the case to take political advantage out of it.
“When the matter can be resolved through mutual dialogue and while the Union Water Resources minister Uma Bharti is keen on resolving the issue, the manner in which the Odisha government is raising its demand for formation of a tribunal and contemplating on taking the matter to the Supreme Court, I think it is deliberately delaying the matter to gain political mileage,” he added.
In his reaction, BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb said the Chhattisgarh government is blowing hot and cold in the same breath.
“While the Chhattisgarh Water Resources minister says that the Odisha government is playing a political game, on the other hand he claims that the Odisha government would lose the case in the Supreme Court. If this is so, then why he is afraid? Since the Odisha government is confident that it will win the legal battle against Chhattisgarh, it has demanded formation of a tribunal and decided to move the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Odisha government always wants a permanent solution and not a mutual understanding on Mahanadi issue,” he pointed out.
BJD Rajya Sabha member AU Singhdeo said the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre is supporting the BJD government in Chhattisgarh and this is the reason why the Centre is having stepmotherly attitude towards Odisha. “But we will stick to our demand. "We will agitate in and outside the Parliament. We will also go to the people and take up the matter with the Supreme Court and High Court,” he noted.
Talking to media persons during his visit to Kamakhyanagar, Union Petroleum and Natural Gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the Odisha government in a letter has informed the Centre that since the Chhattisgarh government is not bothered about interest of Odisha on Mahanadi, the Centre should take steps for formation of an inter-state water disputes tribunal under the Inter-state River Water Disputes Act to resolve the ongoing row between the two states.
"The arguments placed by the Odisha government are justified and I hope that the Centre after considering the case would form a tribunal in consultation with both the state governments,” he added.
Asked whether the Mahanadi issue will have any impact on the ensuing panchayat polls in Odisha, the Union minister said the state at present has a useless and inefficient government.
“The BJP National President Amit Shah during his visit to Odisha yesterday, had said the Union government under the leader of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has implemented a number of welfare schemes in the last 30 months in which Odisha has been immensely benefited. The time has come for the Naveen Patnaik government who has ruled the state for 17 years to give clarifications to the people about the mass death of tribal children in Malkangiri district and Nagada village in Jajpur district, circumstances which forced Dana Majhi to carry the body of his wife on his shoulders from the district headquarters hospital to his village, the death of innocent tribals who were killed during an alleged anti-Maoists operation in Malapanga forest near Kurtamgarh in Kandhamal district in the night on July 8,” Pradhan pointed out.
He said the health services and primary education in Odisha are in a shambles while about 40-45 percent of the population has no electricity. Besides, there is acute drinking water crisis and the state government has not made adequate irrigation facilities for the farmers. “The chief minister has to give clarification on these issues,” he demanded.