Ruckus over Mahanadi issue mars proceeding in Odisha Assembly


Bhubaneswar, April 11

The second phase of the budget session of Odisha Assembly began today amid uproar by the ruling BJD members over the Mahanadi river water issue leading to adjournment of the House.

Soon after the House began for the day, many treasury bench members were on their feet raising slogans against the Centre accusing it of conspiring to deprive Odisha of its share of the Mahanadi river water.

The House witnessed noisy scenes amid slogan-shouting by BJD lawmakers even as Co-Operation, Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister, Surjya Narayan Patro was answering to a question.

Pleas by Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat to restore peace in the House went unheeded as BJD legislators continued to allege that the people of Odisha were betrayed by the BJP-led Central government. They demanded concrete steps for functioning of the tribunal to resolve the Mahanadi river water issue between Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

As the uproar continued, the Speaker adjourned the House till 3 pm.

Later, BJD members staged a dharna near the Mahatma Gandhi statue inside the Assembly premises holding banners. They accused the Central government of being partial towards Chhattisgarh in the Mahanadi issue and claimed the river had dried up in Odisha because of a conspiracy.

Slamming the state government for stalling the proceedings, Congress leader Narasingha Mishra told reporters outside the House that the ruling party and the government had the responsibility to ensure smooth functioning of the Assembly. “If protector turns predator, whom shall we approach,” he asked.

Senior BJP MLA Pradip Purohit said the State government was required to furnish all information to the Mahanadi river water tribunal.

He attacked the ruling BJD for adopting disruptive method instead of discussing the issue in the House.

Meanwhile, Odisha has turned the heat on Centre for delay in providing the Terms of reference (TOR) for Mahanadi tribunal and construction of barrages on River Maini (a tributary of Ib River) by Chhattisgarh ahead of the visit of Union Water Resources Minister Arjun Ram Meghawal to visit Odisha and Chhattisgarh on April 16 during his five-state visits over the inter-state river disputes.

The ruling-BJD alleged that the Mahanadi River is drying up due to closure of Kalma barrage by Chhattisgarh government adversely-affecting  Mahanadi-dependent districts and has called for a mega conference with the all the elected representatives of the affected districts on April 15 to discuss the future course of action.

The Mahanadi Bachao Andolan, a state-level water conservation outfit today began a mega awareness drive on Mahanadi water dispute from Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar.

The regional outfit will also launch a signature campaign and ‘padyatra’ from Kalma to Puri on April 11 demanding opening of gates of Kalma Barrage by Chhattisgarh till further orders of the Mahanadi Water dispute tribunal.

The outfit is planning to collect 1 lakh signatures and will present it before the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra.

“The members of the outfit will go on a campaign and collect signatures from people living along the river which will be sent for consideration of the Chief Justice of India,” the outfit’s Convenor, Sudarsan Das said.

Former State Water Resources Minister Bijay Mohapatra said that the Centre has already taken enough time to constitute a tribunal on Mahanadi water dispute, so now it should immediately announce the terms of reference and try to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

While, the ruling BJD has said that calling for a tripartite meeting once again shows that the Centre is dilly-dallying and favouring Chhattisgarh since polls are due in the neighboring state; the Opposition Congress has also criticized the BJP-led Union Government.

“Even though the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to take quick action on two occasions, the latter has always procrastinated. This shows that it has no concern for Odisha but is only trying to favour Chhattisgarh,” Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik said.

In the meantime, the Mahanadi River water dispute has been transferred from Kolkata National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench to Delhi NGT bench.

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