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The Hindu on indiaserver.com : NGOs resent President's comments on Narmada project

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Saturday, December 16, 2000


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NGOs resent President's comments on Narmada project

By Our Special Correspondent

AHMEDABAD, DEC. 15. Some two dozens voluntary organisations in drought-affected Gujarat and Rajasthan have expressed deep anguish over the President, Mr. K.R. Narayanan, showing ``signs of bias'' against the Narmada dam project and cautioned that any further attempt to stall the project would make him ``face the ire of four crore people of the State.''

In a memorandum submitted to the Governor, Mr. Sunder Singh Bhandari, as the representative of the President, the representatives of the non-Government organisations said the President as the constitutional head of the country should not act in a ``biased manner'' to drag the highest office into any controversy.

The memorandum, signed by the representatives of more than 25 non-Government organisations of Gujarat and Rajasthan, said the Rashtrapati Bhavan should not have given shelter to the anti- Narmada dam forces after the Supreme Court gave its verdict in favour of the project.

But the President ``by his actions in granting an audience to the Narmada Bachao Andolan leaders and by his utterances'' was showing ``definite bias'' against the dam project for the which the people in the drought-hit areas in the two States had been awaiting anxiously for the last so many years.

The veteran Sarvodaya leader, Mr. Krishnaprasad Patel, the convenor of the Narmada Jal-Rakshak Sangh formed by the voluntary organisations of the two States, said there was an apprehension in the minds of the people that the President might ``misuse'' his extra-ordinary powers under Schedule 5 of the Constitution to stall the dam project ``in the interest of tribals.''

Pointing out that the meeting of the Narmada Control Authority in Delhi on December 9 to finalise the dam construction programme was canceled at the last moment without any specific reason, he said it raised questions whether ``something is cooking'' against the project even after the apex court's final judgment.

Appreciating the President's concern for the welfare of the tribals, the memorandum said Mr. Narayanan apparently had been ``misled'' by the dam critics both about the number of tribals to be affected by the project and their future once the dam was constructed.

It pointed out that while the population to be affected by the project in Gujarat and Maharshtra were cent per cent tribals, in Madhya Pradesh the tribals constitute only 30 per cent of the people to be affected.

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