Mahanadi row: BJD skips all-party meet, stops Chhattisgarh bound trains

Bhubaneswar: Activists of the BJD, which has decided to stay away from the all-party meet convened by Leader of Opposition Narasingh Mishra today to discuss the projects being constructed by Chhattisgarh in the upstream of Mahanadi,stopped all goods trains to Chhattisgarh at various stations of the State and staged a hunger strike in front of the local office of the Central Water Commission (CWC) here.

Party workers blocked the rail tracks and demonstrated in front of the trains at Berhampur, Raja Athagarh, Sambalpur, Bolangir, Rourkela and Jharsuguda stations. The three MLAs of Bhubaneswar, ministers Sanjay Dasburma, Devi Mishra, Ashok Panda other ministers and leaders took part in the protest near the CWC office here against the central body’s ‘back-door’ clearance to the Kelo project undertaken by Chhattisgarh in the upper catchment of the river.

“BJD’s relay strike in front of the CWC office against Chhattisgarh’s unauthorised construction in upstream of Mahanadi has started from today. Chhatisgarh prepared the master plan of the projects without consulting Odisha as a co-basin State. On the Kelo project, the CWC had not named Odisha in its 95th meeting while the Water Resources departments of other States were informed. It has only consulted us on Arpa-Bhainsjhar project recently. Chhatisgarh CM Raman Singh is saying that his state is utilising 25 per cent of water. But, it is really using 37 per cent water and is planning to hijack 88 per cent in future,” Industries minister Debi Prasad Mishra said.

The strike will continue for 100 days, says minister and Biju Yuva Janata Dal president Sanjay Dasburma.

The regional party on Monday had announced rail blockade and demonstration at CWC, saying that it can follow the route the Chhattisgarh government had adopted.

Denouncing the all party meet, Industries minister Devi Mishra had said earlier that they (Opposition parties) can share any idea if they have. “But the all party meeting is a political gimmick”, Mishra had said.

BJP and other Opposition parties in Odisha like CPI,CPI(M) and others will attend the meet. Samajwadi Party, however, has decided to stay away saying it supports the agitation by the BJD.

On the other hand, the BJP today came down heavily on the State government over its claim that it was completely in the dark about the Kelo project in Chhatisgarh. Addressing a press meet, party general secretary Bhrugu Baxipatra said the neighbouring State had communicated to Odisha about the construction of the project way back in 2006. Three documents have been exchanged between two states over the same project, he said. “Even there is an internal communication among the State officials after receiving the letter from Chhattisgarh. Discussion had also been held on the content of the documents among them. In April, 2008, the chief engineer of Project Planning and Formulation (Odisha) CV Prasad had shot off a letter (memo no 3351) to EIC, Odisha Water Resources department”, the BJP leader said.

Despite being well informed, the government is telling a lie to the people of Odisha. “The most unfortunate thing is that this government ultimately used the chief secretary and other government officials as its party members. BJP condemns the act of the BJD strongly and calls upon the chief minister to refrain from it,” Baxipatra rued.

“There is still time to save the Mahanadi. BJP suggests the government should take legal action against it,” he pointed out.

On BJP’s allegation that the Odisha government is lying on the issue, Mishra said, “The state BJP’s stand is not clear yet. Their minister Sanjeev Balyan admitted the unauthorised construction of Arpa-Bhainsjhar by Chhatisgarh. Their government is in Chhatisgarh and in the Centre. Let them stop the unauthorised construction first. After that, their intention would be exposed”.

Meanwhile, Odisha Student Leaders’ Forum protested Chhatisgarh’s move in an innovative way by entering into knee-deep water in river Mahanadai at Jobra in Cuttack, which they termed as ‘Jal Satyagraha’.