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July 30, 1998


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Centre modifies scheme to resolve Cauvery; Nayanar sceptical about Aug 6 meet

The Centre has proposed a modified scheme to facilitate implementation of the Cauvery Water Tribunal award which among other things sought to remove certain provisions that could penalise states for non-implementation of the award.

The modified scheme was discussed at a meeting the chief secretaries of the four Cauvery basin states had with Cabinet Secretary Prabhat Kumar in New Delhi on Wednesday. The chief secretaries of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry attended the meeting.

Talking to newspersons separately after the hour-long meeting, Karnataka Chief Secretary B K Bhattacharya and Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary A P Muthuswamy said there was narrowing of differences to a certain extent on the procedures to be adopted for implementation of the scheme.

Sources said the modified scheme also proposed setting up of an authority comprising Union water resources minister and chief ministers of the basin states to oversee the implementation of the award. Under the original scheme, the Cauvery River Valley Authority was vested with powers on implementation of the award.

The original scheme was formulated by the United Front government and the then attorney-general had told the Supreme Court way back in April 1997 that his government would notify the scheme at the earliest. Since then, the Centre has sought as many as nine adjournments in the court but the scheme is yet to be notified.

The Supreme Court decided to give one more last chance to the Centre to notify the scheme and posted the next hearing to August 12.

Muthuswamy said the chief secretaries of the basin states would have one more round of discussions with the cabinet secretary on August 4. ''The modified scheme was given to us today and my government has to study the implications before coming out with the response,'' he said.

Prime Minister A B Vajpayee has convened a meeting of chief ministers of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry to discuss the contentious issues to enable the Centre to make up its mind.

Meanwhile, Karnataka has welcomed the modifications effected to the draft scheme for Cauvery while sticking to its 'basic objections' for creating River Valley Authority.

He said Karnataka welcomed the changes in the draft scheme which had accepted state's suggestions like dropping the clause to take over the reservoirs by the proposed authority. The changes also had taken the clarificatory orders given by the Cauvery Disputes Tribunal concerning the situation in the distress year passed in 1992 and 1995. The Tamil Nadu had opposed these changes. The modified draft was circulated among the states last night.

He agreed that the differences had 'narrowed' down and said the final decision on the modified draft would be taken by the political executive in the August 4 meeting.

He said Karnataka opposed the 'draconian powers' proposed to be given to the River Valley Authority to take over the reservoirs which was against the federal structure.

Karnataka he said had suggested to the Centre to set up a review committee headed by water resources minister and the chief ministers of four basin states could be the members instead of the proposed statutory authority.

The state wanted the headquarters of the authority be located in Delhi instead of in any of the basin states. Tamil Nadu wanted it to be at Coimbatore as proposed by the draft while Kerala was for it to be headquartered at Palghat.

In Kerala, Chief Minister E K Nayanar struck a note of pessimism over the outcome of the August 6 meeting of chief ministers of the southern states, convened by the Centre to resolve the vexed dispute over sharing of the Cauvery river water.

Replying to a submission on the subject raised by T M Jacob (Kerala Congress-Jacob) in the state assembly, he told the Opposition: "I will certainly attend the meeting. Or else, you will find fault with me."

Nayanar pointed out that disputes between states over river water sharing and boundaries existed since the reorganisation of states in 1956. No state had so far budged an inch from its stand, he said.

On the suggestion of the opposition to convene an all-party meeting in Thirivananthapuram before the August 6 chief ministers' conclave at New Delhi, Nayanar said Kerala had taken its own stand on the Cauvery water and other issues, evolved over a period of time through discussions within the assembly and outside. Therefore, there was no need for an all-party meeting now to discuss these issues, he added.


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