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July 20, 1998


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Tempers run high as Parliament plumbs Cauvery

Tempers ran high in the Lok Sabha today on the sensitive Cauvery water dispute with members from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu clashing with each other and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam staging a walk-out, but the government took a tactical step saying it could not give any assurance now as the matter was coming up before the Supreme Court tomorrow.

Members from Kerala made it clear that the Cauvery flowed through Kerala also and therefore without Kerala's participation nobody could reach any settlement on this water dispute. Mullappaly Ramachandran (Congress) said all the four southern states should be involved in the process to find a solution.

The issue, raised by Vaiko, leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a constituent of the ruling coalition, generated much heat in the House taking about one hour. Members from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu clashed on every point, and at one stage Karnataka members rushed to the well of the House.

Members from Tamil Nadu were seen divided into two camps -- the DMK which rules the state and others who are supporting the central government and were engaged in verbal duels with each other.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Laloo Prasad Yadav were seen thoroughly enjoying the clashes. They also added fuel to the fire by raising points of order.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana who responded to the submissions on Cauvery, made during Zero Hour, said the government would not like to give any assurance now as the matter would come up before the Supreme Court tomorrow.

Khurana had a dig at Mulayam Yadav and T R Balu (DMK) who said it was a shame on the government's part that it was not taking any decision. In April 1997, the then attorney general gave an assurance to the Supreme Court that the government would formulate a scheme on this issue, but even after 11 months they could not take any decision, Khurana said, pointing out that Balu and Mulayam Yadav were ministers in that government.

Khurana said these leaders could not say shame to the present government as they themselves did not do anything. Balu again said, ''shame shame to the government'' and led his party colleagues in staging a walkout.

Vaiko said the government should immediately submit the scheme to implement the interim award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal issued in June 1991. He said the government had given an assurance about the scheme in April 1997. He said Tamil Nadu was not interested in further talks on the issue.

Sedapatti R Muthiah (AIADMK) said the United Front government in which the DMK and Tamil Manila Congress were constituents, had betrayed the people of Tamil Nadu. This attracted strong protests from the DMK members.

The present government and the previous governments did not do anything to notify a scheme to implement the interim award of the Cauvery tribunal, he said. Muthiah wanted justice from the government today itself.

Balu said the Tamil Nadu chief minister had asked the Centre not to seek any further adjournment in the Supreme Court tomorrow. He wanted to know the instructions given by the government to the attorney general.

R L Jalappa (Congress) said Karnataka had been releasing more than 205,000 million cubic feet of water every year to Tamil Nadu. He said the Tribunal wanted Karnataka to be a reservoir to feed Tamil Nadu. Members from Tamil Nadu protested against these remarks.

Jalappa said the DMK and AIADMK should try to settle their account in Tamil Nadu. He also suggested a meeting of the chief ministers of the four southern states on this issue.

In the Rajya Sabha, S M Krishna (Congress) walked out protesting against the refusal of the chair to allow him to speak on the Cauvery issue during Zero Hour.

Krishna wanted to raise a point of order while Jayanthi Natarajan (TMC) was speaking but was disallowed by chairman Krishan Kant.

Leader of the House Sikandar Bakht pointed out that the member had flouted the decorum of the Upper House where members traditionally do not question the chair's ruling.

As Janardhan Poojary (Congress) sought to explain away the conduct of his colleague, Kant quoted from the book Rajya Sabha at Work to say that Krishna's action amounted to contempt of the House.

However, the chairman said the matter be treated as closed as he had ''forgiven (the member) and forgotten the issue''.

Later, Natarajan provoked the Karnataka member by saying that they could not meet the arguments of those from Tamil Nadu. She had to apologise later when Venkaiah Naidu (BJP) said Natarajan's remark could arouse regional passions and must be struck off the record.

N T Soundaram (AIADMK) wanted a firm commitment from the government that it would implement the scheme. He wanted the prime minister or the minister concerned to clarify the government's stand.

H Hanumanthappa (Congress) said the Tamil members were trying to take advantage of the ''weak'' coalition government through pressure. ''They know the matter is sub-judice and the government cannot say anything about the Cauvery scheme on the floor of the House.''

Hanumanthappa disputed the Tamil charge that Karnataka was not releasing adequate water for Tamil Nadu. He said there was no way Karnataka can hold water in its territory. It had to go to Tamil Nadu and then to the sea.

While asserting that Karnataka had not violated the interim order of the Cauvery tribunal, he said the fact was that Karnataka released much more water than the 205,000 million cubic feet demanded by Tamil Nadu, except one year, 1995-96, when there was a drought. He pointed out that there were four riparian states and all of them had no understanding of the issue.

S R Bommai (Janata Dal) said members of Parliament from Karnataka had just held a meeting with the prime minister who had promised to look into the matter. He said the tribunal was to come up with its final award and till then the ''Tamilian friends'' should wait.

He said the fact was that two-thirds water of the Cauvery goes to the sea. If the four states and central government jointly came out with a scheme to utilise this water, there would be no problem for either of the states.

Jayanti Natarajan said the government would be liable for contempt for failing to implement the directions given by the Supreme Court regarding the Cauvery waters.


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