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PM asked to ban entry of dam panel - [September 10,1998] - The Hindustan Times
September 10,1998
New Delhi


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PM asked to ban entry of dam panel
NEW DELHI, Sept. 9 (HT Correspondent)

Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has sought Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's intervention to prevent the entry of the World Commission on Dams into India.

According to him, the Commission has no locus stand) and consists of "self-appointed" group of individuals and anti-dam lobbyists like Medha Patkar and L. C. Jain.

Mr Patel, who called on the Prime Minister this evening as a follow up to his Sept. 3 and Aug. 24 plea on the issue, told newspersons this afternoon that the Commission's visit later this month, to conduct a public hearing on the Narmada project, could have 'possible adverse implications'.

Narmada Project Minister J. N. Vyas, who conducted a major part of the Press conference on behalf of the Chief Minister alleged that the "intentions" of tee Commission were "suspect" and aimed at "putting hurdles in our water resources projects like the Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat, the Indira Sagar in Madhya Pradesh and Tehri in UP."

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Patel charged that Commission's decision to hold a public hearing at Bhopal was "tantamount to undue interference and meddling into our development plans."

Virtually carrying out a crusade against the Commission's proposed move, Mr Patel has sent off a two-page letter to all the Chief Ministers on Sept. 3. The letter which apprised the CMs of Gujarat's objections, states that the matter "should be of concern to all of us".

It ended with the plea that they should also "take up the matter appropriately with the Government of India."

Responding to queries on the subject, Mr Patel admitted that the Madhya Pradesh Government, which has also been contacted, has not yet responded to their communication.

The Commission, which after representation from the Chief Secretary of Gujarat cancelled its Gujarat visit, is to visit Bhopal on Sept. 21-22. In a fax message, the Commission's Secretary General invited the Gujarat Government to participate in the public hearing there.

Mr Patel claimed that the Government was against the Commission's move essentially on four counts. His government was in principle opposed to any such examination, he said.

The Commission's intention to gauge the public reaction on the question of the Sardar Sarovar Dam through a public hearing amounted to an assault on the sovereignty of the country.

Secondly, he questioned the timing of the Commission's visit when the matter was at an 'advanced and a crucial stage" before the Supreme Court.

Thirdly, it was against the manner in which the entire exercise was being conducted. Instead of declaring their intention to visit the states concerned, the Commission should have interacted with the Central authorities and sought data instead, he said.

Maintaining that the "Commission's formal and legal status is quite nebulous," Mr Patel, in his letter to the Prime Minister also complained that the Commission had flouted normal diplomatic courtesy and conventions.

Fourthly, questioning the locus standi of the Commission, in his letter to CMs, Mr Patel said: "As far as we are aware, the Commission does not have an official or formal status nor has it been constituted either by the international community or by an international organisation."

To top it, it has as its members well-known anti-Narmada dam activists Ms Medha Patkar and Mr L. C. Jain, he said, adding that the Commission seems to have been hijacked by the anti-Narmada dam lobby to serve their ulterior motive.