Cong slams BJD For Changing Stance & Supporting Water Dispute Bill

Bhubaneswar: Terming the BJD’s support to the Inter-State River Water Dispute (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha as ‘unfortunate’, Opposition Congress today slammed the ruling-party for changing its stand on the issue and charged it with “sacrificing” the interest of the state. Party leader Narasingha Mishra sought to know from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik how he will protect the interest of Odisha.

Lok Sabha had on Wednesday passed the bill that seeks to amend the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 and streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes through constitution of a single tribunal with different benches and strict timeline schedule.

“The Odisha Assembly had opposed to the one tribunal idea of the Centre in wake of the Mahanadi row with Chhattisgarh but now the BJD has taken a U-turn in the Parliament and supported the Inter-state River Water Dispute (Amendment) Bill, 2019, said Mishra.

The senior Congress leader said that people of Odisha are already facing water scarcity during the non-monsoon season as neighbouring Chhattishgarh has constructed several barrages and dams upstream on the river Mahanadi.

“Despite pleas by the State, the NDA government was reluctant to set up a tribunal to address the Mahanadi water dispute with Chhattishgarh. So the state had to move the Supreme Court for a separate tribunal for the dispute. But now this single tribunal by the Centre is against Odisha’s interest and anti-people. Despite knowing this, under what circumstances, the BJD changed its stand and sacrificed the interest of the state in the Parliament, questioned Narasingha.

The Congress leader also came down heavily on the BJD and its president Naveen Patnaik for the regional party MPs supporting all the bills and issues raised by the BJP-led government at the centre.

He also said that even after open support to BJP on different issues, the central government is not paying any heed to Odisha.

The Congress member said if the BJD goes on supporting the BJP on all issues, it will help the Centre develop a ‘dictatorial attitude’.

“There will be no democracy as there is a bid to make one nation, one election, one law, one tax, one party and one leader in the country,” he said.

“I request the chief minister to clarify to the people of Odisha if there is any hidden agenda behind the BJD’s support to the BJP, whether it will help develop socio- economic condition of the people in the state,” he said.

It may be noted that once the amended river dispute bill comes into effect, various tribunals working for resolution of the water sharing disputes will come under the ambit of a single tribunal but will work like separate benches. At present, there are nine tribunals including those on Mahanadi, Cauvery, Ravi and Beas, Vansadhara and Krishna rivers.

With uncertainty over whether the new tribunal will be enough to resolve the long standing Mahanadi water sharing dispute, Odisha Water Resources Minister Raghunandan Das said the State government does not have any objections regarding One Nation One Tribunal as it has been proposed by the Centre but hopes that it resolves water disputes pertaining to the State.

Meanwhile, Union Water Resources Minister Gajendra Singh Sekhawat said, “We have set up a resolution committee to redress the differences within two years. But despite strict timelines for adjudication, there is provision for extension of a one-year period so that the tribunal can resolve all the water disputes within three years.”