Bharatiya Janata Party patriarch Lal Krishna Advani on Tuesday pulled up the government for dragging its feet on the constitution of a special committee as commanded by the Supreme Court for interlinking of rivers -- an abandoned landmark decision of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government.
Three months have lapsed since the judgment of a bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia on February 27 that held that time is the essential factor and yet no committee has been set up, Advani noted in his latest blog, wondering if amicus curiae Advocate Ranjit Kumar, richly complemented by the court for his contribution in the case, would move a contempt petition against the UPA government's 'default'.
The operative portions of the 63-page judgment quoted in the blog gives the amicus curiae liberty "to file contempt petition in this court, in the event of default or non-compliance of the directions contained in this order."
The inter-linking of rivers is dear to Advani's heart because he counts it as among the three main achievements of the NDA government -- other two being the sincere bid for normalcy and peace with Pakistan and laying a firm foundation for a network of highways and rural roads.
The whole plan of inter-linking the major rivers was worked out by then union minister Suresh Prabhu, a trained chartered-accountant who has gone into political oblivion after losing election and parting company with his party, the Shiv Sena. He headed the task force set up to draw up the plan.
Advani writes that Prabhu met him recently and gave a detailed account of his painstaking exertions of holding more than 5,000 small and big meetings in all states of the country.
Besides, he set up a group of finance experts and eminent bankers, led by ICICI bank chairman K V Kamath, which presented very innovative and forward looking ideas for financing the project.
Prabhu told Advani that this group of experts were confident that they would be able to raise at least Rs 5,60,000 crore worth investment for the interlinking scheme while ISRO under the chairmanship of Dr Kasturi Rangan had agreed to use remote sensing, satellite imagery, etc for effective project planning and monitoring.
Advani writes that he was reminded about joining of the rivers when his 40-day rath yatra in the last quarter of 2011 on corruption, inflation and black money passed through the desert region of Rajasthan as to how the farmers of the state were greatly enthused by the move that was junked after the UPA came to power.
He points out that the Supreme Court judgment revived the ambitious programme on a PIL (public interest litigation) filed in 2002 to utilise available water resources by inter-linking rivers like Ganga, Kaveri, Vaigai and Tambaravani.
The judgment asked the Centre to forthwith set up a Special Committee for Inter-Linking of Rivers of officials, experts and social activists, headed by the water resources minister, that will meet at least once in two months and submit by-annual reports to the Union Cabinet.
The court wanted the cabinet to take final and appropriate decisions on these reports within 30 days of submission.
The court also empowered the committee to prepare plans for implementing the project phase wise, asking it to fix a definite time frame to lay down the guidelines for completion of feasibility reports or other reports and completion of projects so that the benefits accrue within reasonable time and cost.
It has taken note of reports of the Prabhu-headed task force going waste as they were not acted upon.
"Thus, the entire effort put in by the task force has practically been of no use to the concerned governments, much less the public," the court noted, directing the government to place these reports before the committee "which shall, without fail, take due note of the suggestions made therein and take decisions as to how the same are to be implemented for the benefit of the public at large."