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The Hindu on : Compromise formula on Tehri to avert VHP stir

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Thursday, April 12, 2001

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Compromise formula on Tehri to avert VHP stir

By Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI, APRIL 11. The Government, it seems, has worked out a compromise formula on the Tehri dam issue to allow the Vishwa Hindu Parishad a face-saving device to call off its agitation. The net result is that generation of power by the Tehri Hydro Election Corporation has been delayed by at least one month.

The ``device'' adopted is the time-tested one of setting up yet another committee of ``experts'' (which includes two VHP nominees) to make an ``indepth study of the seismic safety of the Tehri dam in the light of the Bhuj earthquake'' and to look at the ``impact of the dam on the self-purification quality of `Ganga jal'.''

The VHP had also been trying to whip up emotional feelings by warning that the very nature of `holy Ganga jal' would change but even that backfired after the Akhara Parishad announced that Hindu `sants' and `sadhus' would not participate in the VHP agitation.

The committee has been set up by the Power Ministry with Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister for Science and Development, as the chairman. Besides several ex-officio members from the Ministry of Water Resources, the Central Water Commission, the Geological Survey of India, the Pollution Control Board and so on, there are two VHP nominees - Mr. U. K. Chaudhury from Varanasi and Mr. Guru Das Agarwal from the Vrinda Sewa Sadan - although, naturally, they have not been described as such.

The Director-General of CSIR, Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, also a member, had been recently given an award at the RSS function at Agra, suggesting his proximity to the Sangh Parivar. Late in March, the VHP leader, Mr. Ashok Singhal, announced that he would undertake an indefinite fast from March 31 when the water from the Bhagirathi was to be diverted through tunnels into the Tehri dam reservoir. He said the Bhagirathi formed the main stream of the Ganga and preventing its flow into the main river stream would mean changing the ``natural'' quality of the river.

However, that fast was never undertaken as the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, promised to take a second look at the Tehri dam plan. The committee was set up yesterday in pursuance of that promise. BJP sources said that a ``compromise'' had already been worked - the flow of the Bhagirathi into the main river stream would not be altogether stopped. At the same time, some of that water would be allowed to fill up the reservoir.

The BJP cannot abandon the project after it is almost complete. The party's Government in Uttaranchal is in favour of the Tehri dam going ahead full steam as it hopes to be the beneficiary of not only some free power but also royalty from the additional power it generates.

Caught between the Sangh Parivar's objections as articulated by the VHP and the Uttaranchal Government's assertions in favour of the dam and making it functional as soon as possible, the Vajpayee Government seems to have arrived at a compromise. The Joshi committee has been given four weeks to complete its task.

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