Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Sunday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to advise Kerala not to build a new dam across Mullaperiyar and sought a financial package for the state.
In her 40-minute meeting with Singh at Raj Bhavan soon after his arrival on a two-visit to the state, Jayalalithaa submitted a memorandum making a host of demands but skipped any reference to the Koodankulam nuclear power project standoff.
Amid the raging row over Mullaperiyar dam, she demanded deployment of the Central Industrial Security Force to safeguard the reservoir and withdrawal of the recent order of the National Disaster Management Authority constituting a team of experts for formulating a Contingency Response Plan for it.
In the 18-page memorandum, she also sought exemption of Tamil Nadu from the proposed National Food Security Bill and protection of the "traditional fishing rights" of Indian fishermen in the Palk Bay and their safety and security in the backdrop of attacks on them allegedly by Sri Lankan Navy.
Earlier, Jayalalithaa presented a shawl and a bouquet to Singh when he landed at the airport in Chennai by a special aircraft. This is Singh's first visit to the state since she returned to power six months ago.
Accusing Kerala government of indulging in "calculated fear mongering", Jayalalithaa said this had led to attacks and destruction of "Tamil Nadu properties", prompting the state to
demand CISF protection to the dam.
Tracing the history of the row, she requested Singh to advise Kerala government to honour the 2006 Supreme Court order allowing Tamil Nadu to raise the water level initially from 136 ft to 142 ft.
"The retrofitted Mullaperiyar Dam is safe and functioning well," she said urging him to ask Kerala not to obstruct but to co-operate with Tamil Nadu in carrying out the remaining strengthening works suggested by the Central Water Commission and also the routine maintenance works.
Jayalalithaa's demands come against the backdrop of leaders from both states indulging in a war of words ever since the issue resurfaced last month in the wake of tremors in the Idduki district of Kerala where the reservoir is located.
On the Food Security Bill, about which she had written to Singh earlier opposing it, she said the legislation is "replete with confusion and inaccuracy".
Seeking exemption of Tamil Nadu from the purview of the proposed bill as it would entail an additional financial burden of Rs 1,800 crore per annum, she said the state had been successfully implementing universal public distribution system.
"In a federal structure where states are in close and direct contact with people, the choice of designing and implementing popular welfare schemes is best left to the states," the chief minister said.
Refraining from referring in the memorandum to the prolonged impasse over the Koodankulam project facing protests from the locals, Jayalalithaa said as the Indo-Russian project was getting delayed, the Centre should allocate an additional 1,000 MWe to the state immediately.
Seeking a financial package on the lines of assistance to West Bengal, she said her government had inherited a "fragile financial system" with an enormous debt burden of over Rs 1 lakh crore.
"The state is unable to come out of the debt trap hampering development works severely," she said, adding the Centre might consider providing additional financial support under specific programmes like Backward Regions Grant or any other developmental schemes meant for infrastructure development as it did in the case of West Bengal.
Raising the issue of attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen allegedly by Sri Lankan Navalmen, she said the incidents had caused great unrest amongst the fishermen community.
Noting that nearly 30 incidents of such attacks had taken place since she came to power in May last, she said during the proposed January talks with Sri Lanka, India should strongly take up the issue with Colombo.