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Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Govt develops cold feet on NJA kar seva

EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE  
VADODARA, Nov 16: The Gujarat Government, all along seen as having been supportive of the kar seva planned by the Narmada Jan Andolan (NJA), seems to have developed cold feet on the issue.

The NJA, an organisation recently set up by farm leader Sharad Joshi to campaign for Narmada waters reaching drought-prone areas of Gujarat, has all along enjoyed tacit support of the state government. The proposed kar seva is a symbolic act: volunteers plan to pour water into the main canal.

Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel last week reportedly told NJA to postpone the programme planned December 4 onward, while Narmada Development Minister Jaynarayan Vyas on Tuesday told Express Newsline, ``The intentions of the kar sevaks are good, but there are other ways of achieving the demands. However, it will take a couple of days to make things clear.''

Vyas said that the government was trying to work out a solution that would ensure that nothing comes in the way of the early completion of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP).

Asked if ban orders would be imposed at the dam site, the minister said that question was be difficult to answer at the moment. He said the government would decide in a few days whether to invite Joshi for talks.

The chief minister had reportedly told NJA to postpone the kar seva stating that if it went ahead with the programme there was all likelihood of the Supreme Court being prejudiced on the issue. Earlier, the Madhya Pradesh chief minister had objected to the kar seva, stating that the matter is pending in the Supreme Court.

Vyas, however, said he was unaware of what transpired between the chief minister and NJA members at their meeting last week.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of heads of co-operative mandalis from various parts of the district at the Sardar Bhavan, Joshi exhorted pro-dam volunteers to go ahead with the kar seva irrespective of the government's stand.

Coming down heavily on politicians, Joshi alleged that they were trying to gain political mileage out of the Narmada issue. Observing that the Narmada issue had become like gangrene, Joshi said that to solve the problems a kar seva has been planned.

``If the Government thinks that we are doing anything wrong, it can arrest us,'' he went on to say.

Joshi also criticised reported misconceptions being generated by certain non-government organisations that the water would not reach Saurashtra and that it would be taken away by sugar industries along the route of the canal.

Despite some sadhus reportedly having backed out after the chief minister's statement, Joshi tried to keep the spirits of those peresent alive by stating that the programme would continue come what may.

Former finance minister Sanat Mehta stated that it was unfortunate that the in Gujarat people do not stand up for their rights.

Gujarat Khedut Samaj president Bipin Desai said that European countries were not interested in the state's progress.

Among those who spoke were Baroda Dairy chairman Upendrasinh Gohil and president of Vadodara Khedut Mandal Vipin Patel.

The co-operative Mandali leaders promised milk for kar sevaks and the farmers were asked to chip in with vegetables and fruits. Word was spread that taluka level teams were being formed to assign responsibility for the programme.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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