BENGALURU/NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declined to intervene in the Kalasa-Banduri Nala row involving Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.
The all-party delegation from Karnataka led by Chief Minster Siddaramaiah, which called on Modi on Monday seeking his intervention for an out-of-court settlement for the dispute, was disappointed at Modi’s response.
Citing the fact that the issue has been referred to the Justice Panchal Tribunal, Modi reportedly declined to intervene. He did not want to initiate any move that could be perceived as an attempt to politicise the dispute.
Siddaramaiah told reporters after the meeting that Modi refused to invite chief ministers of the three states for a negotiated out-of-court settlement of the row.
The prime minister reportedly explained that talks could not be held without taking the Opposition parties in Goa and Maharashtra also into confidence.
According to sources, Modi said “the Congress Opposition in the states may start attacking the BJP-led governments in Goa and Maharashtra, if he prevailed upon them to release even 5 tmcft of extra water each’’ to Karnataka. Sources added that Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharg, who attended the meeting, took exception to this view, bringing out of the tension between the two sides in a PM-CM meeting.
The PM also cited the manner in which chief ministers of the Congress-ruled states had boycotted the meeting of the NITI Ayog and also opposed the Centre’s Land Acquisition bill.
To convince him, the 1971 example was given where the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had similarly intervened outside the Tribunal, to bring relief to drought-hit Tamil Nadu.
However, Siddaramaiah expressed hope that Modi would take initiatives to resolve the issue.
The project involves diversion of 7.56 tmcft of water through from Mahadayi river basin through the Kalasa-Banduri Nala to Malaprabha river to meet the drinking water needs of Hubli-Dharwad, Gadag and other towns.
Siddaramaiah said Karnataka would continue its efforts for an out-of-court settlement with a spirit of give-and-take as the tribunal could take a long time to deliver its verdict and also put up an effective argument before the tribunal to protect its interests.
He appealed to farmers and people in Navalgund, Hubli and Dharwad to end their six-week long agitation demanding an immediate resolution of the problem as the people are suffering from severe drinking water crisis.
State Seeks Rs 3,050-cr Aid
The all-party delegation also presented a detailed memorandum explaining the hardship faced by people due to severe drought that has affected 126 taluks.
The delegation has sought a central government package of Rs 3,050 cr for taking up drought relief work including rejuvenation of tanks, opening goshalas(relief camps for cattle) and procuring fodder.
Modi said a central team was being sent to Karnataka soon to assess the drought situation there.
The delegation also urged the Union government to allot 1500 MW additional power for Karnataka from the Central pool considering the power crisis that has gripped the state due to poor storage in hydel reservoirs.
Siddaramaiah also urged Modi to announce a comprehensive policy to stabilise sugar prices which have been falling for the last two years, to protect the interests of sugar cane farmers.
In a memorandum, the Chief Minister explained the plight of sugar cane farmers and sugar mill owners in the state and how the government was feeling the pinch despite giving over `1,500 crore from its coffers to bail out cane farmers.
To this, Modi said these problems were being faced by sugarcane farmers across the country and the Union government was taking a number of steps to address them.
A request was also made for a hike in the import duty of silk to 30 per cent to protect the interests of the mulberry growers in the state and the Prime Minister said it would be examined.
The Chief Minister also urged refunding of Rs 440.20 crore, which was collected from the Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) by the income tax authorities.