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Saturday 20 May 2000


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GCCI invites Medha, Arundhati to debate on Narmada

By A Staff Reporter

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has invited Narmada Bachao Andolan activists Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy to participate in an 'open debate' some time in the month of June on the need for expeditious completion of the Narmada project.

The GCCI has asked the two activists to select any suitable date in June to discuss the Narmada project keeping in view the acute water scarcity and miseries faced by over two crore people and 7.1 million cattle in 17 districts of Gujarat.

An NBA spokesman in Vadodara, Shripad Dharmadhikari expressed 'pleasant surprise' at the invitation and said the NBA was always open to the idea of a debate at any forum on the issue. He, however, said both Arundhati and Medha had not yet received the invitation.

Dharmadhikari called the invitation surprising because "there has always been an attempt by a handful of persons in Gujarat with the connivance of the police and the government to sabotage any kind of dialogue on the issue". He added "we are willing to go to anybody who is willing to listen to us".

In a letter addressed by the GCCI president Mukesh Patel to both Patkar and Roy, he has urged them to view their "hyper technical stand on environment and excessive concern for rehabilitation of a few thousand project affected families, keeping in view the broader humanitarian angle and more particularly the woes of millions people and cattle in the state".

He said it was ironical that while on one hand a huge amount of Narmada waters go unharnessed into the sea, people in Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat were starving for drinking water. Had the Narmada project been completed on schedule, the drought faced by the state could have been avoided, he said

The GCCI chief has, therefore, invited the two to participate in the open debate with the NGOs with a view to having an objective appraisal of the Narmada project. A press release said the GCCI which has all along championed the cause of Narmada as the 'Lifeline of Gujarat' and is also actively associated with relief work during natural calamities had last week organised a media conference at New Delhi on the prevailing drought situation and need for expeditious completion of the project.

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