Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said that the Central government will continue its efforts to bring both the Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments into the negotiating table for finding an amicable solution to the Mullapperiyar dam issue.
Responding to queries from media persons during a meet-the-press organised by the Kannur Press Club here on Saturday, the Minister said that the Centre would rigorously continue its efforts to solve the dam row amicably despite the fact that the an official-level meeting convened by the Centre for engaging the two State governments in talks did not materialise for now.
Acknowledging that he had personally talked to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Union Minister for Water Resources Pawan Kumar Bansal on finding a solution without delay, he said that the deferment of the meeting had only increased the concerns of the people of the State about the safety of the dam.
"Only courts could intervene"
Admitting that as a Keralite he also shared the concerns of the people of Kerala over the dam, Mr. Antony, however, said that though the Centre would intensify its initiatives to bring both sides to finding a solution, it did not have the powers to issue orders to a State under the federal system of the country. Only the Supreme Court could do that, he said. He also cautioned the political party leaders on both sides not to vitiate the situation that would ruin the good relationship between people of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The Defence Minister, in reply to another question, said that no previous Central governments had taken so much initiative to assist the State as the United Progressive Alliance government over the past seven years. He announced that a special financial package for the State government was under serious consideration of the Central government in view of the unsatisfactory fiscal situation in the State. He, however, refused to go into details of the package in the pipeline.
Stating that the Malabar region occupied an important position in the defence map of the country, as seven defence-related institutions had been launched in the State since he became Defence Minister including the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala, the first phase of which was commissioned on January 8, 2009, Mr. Antony announced that the Central Cabinet had sanctioned the Rs. 140 crore project for the second phase development of the academy. The number of cadets being trained at the
INA would be increased from 750 to 1200 once the second phase of the project was completed, he said adding that the Indian Navy required more trained officers as the Navy’s role in ensuring the maritime security had increased. Stressing that maritime trade was dependent on security at sea, he said that the government had decided to strengthen the Indian Navy by providing it with more vessels and equipment as well as more trained officers. Once the second phase development of the INA was completed, it would be one of the best two or three naval academies in the world, he added.
Mr. Antony also said that the military hospital here was one of the 44 military hospitals in the country chosen for being modernised in a phased manner. To a question on the move to shift the 122 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) stationed here to Kozhikode, he said that the proposal was now kept in abeyance in response to the demands of the people’s representatives here against it. The Indian Coast Guard Academy being developed near Azhikkal here would be completed in 2014-15, he said.
On social media
To a question on Communications Minister Kapil Sibal’s suggestion to the social media networks to filter defamatory and inflammatory content, Mr. Antony said that the Central government entertained no idea to control the social media networks which were being increasingly used by youngsters to express their views. Terming the social media as a powerful media form, he said that the government had no desire to control the social media nor was it practically possible to enforce any control over the social media networks. Self-restraint was more important, he added. He also urged media persons to be more conscious of their responsibility as the influence of the media had increased. Their urge to go for breaking news should be preceded by extra fact-checking, he added.