Idukki (Kerala): Kerala, which is worried about the
rising waters of the Mullaperiyar dam, has raised the pitch for a
new dam, with strong protests being held across the state against
Tamil Nadu's opposition to its demand.
The Congress-led United Democratic Front and the rival Left
Democratic Front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist
(CPI-M) are observing a dawn to dusk shutdown in Idukki district
Monday. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is to observe a total
shutdown in four districts -- Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha and
Ernakulam -- Tuesday.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerhead over the
Mullaperiyar dam, built in Idukki under an 1886 accord between the
then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj. While
the dam is located in Kerala, its waters serve Tamil Nadu. And
this is the problem.
Tamil Nadu wants the dam's storage capacity to be increased by
raising the dam height - from 136 feet (41.5 m) to 142 feet (43
m). Irrigation needs have shot up in Tamil Nadu.
Kerala, worried that a strong earthquake might damage the dam and
cause widespraed destruction, is seeking a new dam and has offered
to fund and build it. Tamil Nadu doesn't agree.
Various locations in Idukki -- Vandi Periyar, Kumali and Chappathu
-- Monday morning saw people cutting across political affiliations
gathering and shouting slogans for a new dam.
At many places Left activists were seen shouting slogans against
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, union ministers from Kerala A.K.
Antony, Vayalar Ravi, and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and
demanding that something be done immediately to save the lives of
more than three million Keralites living in the districts of
Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Thrissur and Ernakulam as the
Mullaperiyar waters rise with heavy rains.
"Chandy should now stop his whirlwind trips crisscrossing the
state and direct his full energy to making the centre convince
Tamil Nadu that the only way out is a new dam at Mullaperiyar,"
said CPI-M politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
Chandy stated that the central government will do the needful. "If
there is a need for an all-party delegation to go to Delhi, it
would be done," he added.
Meanwhile, protestors gathered at the border near Thekkady and
stopped all incoming traffic from Tamil Nadu.
For the past few days, anger among people living in and around the
dam area has increased. The sudden show of strength also comes
after a series of tremors hit the area, with the last one striking
30 km from the dam site Saturday morning.
Retired Justice K.T. Thomas, who is a member of the empowered
committee of the Supreme Court that has been studying numerous
issues raised by Tamil Nadu and Kerala, also believes that a new
dam should be built.
"The next meeting of the empowered committee is taking place
shortly and since the last meeting, Idukki has been affected by
tremors and by all means this issue would be discussed when we
meet very shortly," said Thomas.
Idukki legislator Roshi Augustine of the Kerala Congress (Mani),
an ally of the Chandy government, said it was time the central
government acted fast.
"I am sitting on a daylong satyagraha in front of the Accountant
General's office. All these years we have patiently waited and
things are not moving at the pace which the people in and around
Idukki want. We are now hopeful that with the protests stepping
up, the centre will act for a new dam," said Augustine.
P. Rajeev, a Rajya Sabha member of the CPI-M, speaking in Delhi
just before parliament sitting began Monday, said the prime
minister should immediately call a meeting of the chief ministers
of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.