BHUBANESHWAR: A day after union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari invited Odisha government for talks to resolve the Mahanadi river water dispute with Chhattisgarh, Congress criticised the Centre for its double standards over the issue.
“Centre has betrayed the people of Odisha and committed contempt of the house (Rajya Sabha) by inviting the state government again for talks when it had admitted that negotiatons have failed,” leader of the opposition in the assembly Narasingh Mishra said.
In written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, the then minister of state for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Sanjeev Kumar Balyan had stated that negotiations have failed and the Centre decided to form tribunal for which draft memorandum for the cabinet has been prepared. Balyan had said this before the one year mandatory period had expired, Mishra said and asked how can the same government now invite Odisha government for talks. He alleged that the invitation for talks is only a tactic to buy time for helping the BJP ruled Chhattisgarh government to complete all the ongoing projects on Mahanadi river.
The senior Congress leader also maintained that Odisha was not properly represented in the Lok Sabha during the question hour. “Why none of the BJD MPs raised the reply given by Balyan in Rajya Sabha where he had said Centre has decided to set up a tribunal,” he asked.
Mishra also asked why the assembly committee headed by chief minister Naveen Patnaik constituted during the winter session in November, 2017 on Mahanadi river water dispute is yet to be convened for a meeting. “This speaks about the seriousness of the state government on the issue,” he said.
Government chief whip in the assembly and senior BJD leader Amar Prasad Satpathy also rejected Gadkari's offer of talks to resolve the dispute. “Centre should ensure that Chhattisgarh stops all construction work on projects over Mahanadi river to pave the way for discussion,” he said.
Referring to Gadkari's proposal to set up a joint river board, Satpathy said board will only for discussion for sharing of water. “When there will be no non-monsoon flow in Mahanadi river, what is the use of a board,” he said.
Senior CPM leader Janardan Pati also questioned the Centre's fresh proposal for talks. “At the same time Gadkari has invited the state government for talks and assured that a tribunal will be constituted after three months,” Pati said and added, “What does the Centre wants?”