Dam row: Panel trip off, yet no respite for Keshubhai
GANDHINAGAR, Sept. 9
(From Rathin Das)
The World Commission on Dams (WCD) has averted an imminent
confrontation with the Gujarat Government by cancelling its
proposed visit to the Narmada dam site on Sept. 17. However, it
has in the process, robbed the BJP Ministry of deriving immense
political advantage a day prior to the State-wide bandh called by
the combined Opposition on Sept. 18.
Nevertheless, the Gujarat Legislative Assembly would hold a
one-day special session on Friday to condemn what the State
politicians perceive as an ulterior motive to delay the multi-crore
dam project on river Narmada.
A high-powered ministerial delegation led by Chief Minister
Keshubhai Patel has already air-dashed to Delhi to apprise the
Prime Minister of the mood in the State in view of the World
Commission on dam's proposed visit to the Narmada dam site.
The delegations is also likely to impress upon the Centre not to
allow the WCD to hold its public hearings even in Bhopal as it
may jeopardise the case of the dam currently under litigation in
the Supreme Court.
Although all hues of political opinions in Gujarat are united in
opposing any move to scuttle or delay the construction of the
Narmada dam, the six-month-old BJP Government had sought to
utilise the issue primarily to defuse the imminent crisis due to the
call for a State-wide bandh on Sept. 18 given by the combined
opposition m protest against the unprecedented rise in the price
of groundnut oil which hovered around Rs 950 per tin of 15 kg.
The BJP's planned demonstrations and possible arrest of the
WCD team, as threatened by the Chief Minister, on their visit
here on Sept. 17 would have definitely given the State
Government sufficient mileage to negate the impact of the bandh
on the next day, at least partially.
Even though former Chief Minister Sankersinh Vaghela's
Rashtriya Janata Party had extended its support to the BJP
Government in opposing the visit of the WCD delegation, the
maverick leader had made it clear that the Opposition combine
would go ahead with the bandh on the oil price rise issue
irrespective of the all-party unity on the dam question.
With the cancellation of the proposed visit of the WCD team to
the State, the BJP Ministry has lost the raison de etre of its
aggressive posture and the combined opposition is most likely to
pursue its Sept. 18 bandh programme more vigorously.