CHENNAI: The DMK today strongly opposed the Union Cabinet's approval to enact a Dam Safety Bill, accusing the BJP-led government at the Centre of launching "yet another attack on the states' autonomy."
DMK Working President MK Stalin said the matter came under the State List and wondered how a proposed agency in Delhi could oversee the safety of a dam in Tamil Nadu.
Stalin, Leader of Opposition in state Assembly, urged the AIADMK government to adopt a resolution in the House during the current session, seeking to insist that the state will supervise the safety of its dams.
"DMK considers as yet another attack by the BJP-led Central government on states' autonomy, the Union cabinet's June 13, 2018 approval to enact a law on dam safety," he said in a statement.
Stalin recalled that a similar effort was made in 1987 but the said draft then faced stiff resistance as it "amounted to snatching away state governments' rights."
When the bill was moved in the Lok Sabha in 2010 during the UPA regime, it was referred to a Standing Committee following opposition, he said.
The UPA draft, Stalin said, provided a 'Choice' to a state government, allowing it to pass an Assembly resolution over dam safety.
This clause of 'Choice' was missing in the NDA's draft on the issue, he said and accused the Centre of 'trying to do away' with a right in the State list.
He alleged that states have not been consulted on the new draft and criticised the Union cabinet for taking "unilateral decision" on the matter.
Stating that Tamil Nadu was involved in various inter-state water sharing agreements with Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, the senior DMK leader pointed out that the state was owning and operating the Mullaperiyar Dam in Kerala.
"It is the state government's duty to ensure the safety of dams and the people," he noted.
Asking the Centre to withdraw the move, Stalin urged the AIADMK government to ensure that an Assembly resolution insisting that the state will take responsibility of the safety of its dams is adopted in the House.
The resolution should tell the Centre that the present Dam Safety Bill was "unnecessary" and the same should be sent to the Union government, he added.
The BJP-led Centre should stop its "confrontational attitude" with state governments and desist from such moves to ensure cordial Central-state relations, he said.
Stalin's demand comes days after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking that the bill be kept in abeyance, while recalling earlier objections raised by the state government.
Palaniswami had said the Dam Safety Bill, 2018, be kept in abeyance till all states were consulted and consensus was evolved.
The Union Cabinet had last week approved a proposal for enacting the Dam Safety Bill 2018, which will help states and union territories to adopt uniform safety procedures to ensure safety of reservoirs.
The Bill seeks to constitute a national committee on dam safety which shall evolve safety policies and recommend necessary regulations.
It provides for establishment of National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.
In certain cases, such as dams of one state falling under the territory of another, the authority shall also perform the role of State Dam Safety Organisation, thereby eliminating potential causes for inter-state conflicts.
The Bill also provides for constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by the state governments.
The provisions of the Bill also lay onus of dam safety on the owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts.