The State government seems to be in no hurry to file a review petition in the Mullaperiyar dam case.
The all-party meeting last week may have given the State government the go-ahead to file a review or curative petition before the Supreme Court in the Mullaperiyar case, but it seems in no mood to rush matters. The reason, top sources in government say, is that there would be a change in the judges’ panel hearing the case later this year following a few retirements. This may offer Kerala a chance to state its case afresh before the apex court.
As it is, the Mullaperiyar cell is known to be sluggish in work. The cell will handle the review, curative, or other petitions. Since the court is on vacation and senior counsel Mohan Katarki out of station, the cell has two reasonably good excuses to explain away absence of any immediate move in the case. But the story is unlikely to end there. Though the Mullaperiyar cases have dragged on for years, the cell had not been able to present the first part of the Dam Break Analysis before the Supreme Court in time. Worse, work on the second part of the study has reached nowhere. The documents, if the cell wakes up, can now be presented before the committee to be appointed on directives of the court.
Though Tamil Nadu has initiated steps to raise the water level on the Mullaperiyar side, time is on Kerala’s side as this can actually be done only during the monsoons. It is unlikely that Tamil Nadu will stop drawing water from the reservoir just to raise the water level. That means the call will be taken only by October-November as the water level at the Mullaperiyar dam has rarely crossed the 136-ft mark during Southwest monsoon.
All eyes on ‘metroman’
There are those whom age does not wither. Former Supreme Court judge V.R. Krishna Iyer, who still writes articles for newspapers and reacts to social issues, and eagle-eyed Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, the former just a few months away from turning a centenarian and the latter to turn 91 later this year, belong to this category. There is another illustrious son of Kerala who belongs to this pantheon of the aged but agile —. ‘Metroman’ E. Sreedharan. Now the word is he might well be sounded out to be Minister of State for Railways in the Narendra Modi Cabinet.
Soon to turn 82, Mr. Sreedharan is as active as before, be it in his ongoing metro assignments, igniting minds of budding professionals through lectures or going abroad to receive awards and honours. He has been advocating the need for high-speed trains criss-crossing India, to enhance connectivity and to usher in inclusive development and that is stated to be one of Mr. Modi’s major dreams as well.
Already, he is mentoring Kerala’s ambitious high-speed rail corridor project. The State government is also all ears when he speaks in his capacity as member of the State Planning Board about improving the State’s road network. Known for completing projects ahead of schedule and with his reputation for a no-nonsense style of functioning, Mr Sreedharan could become, if not an MoS, adviser to the PMO on transportation projects, a little bird says.
Still under wraps
When it was announced, it had raised visions of wholesome change, but the much-touted Idukki package remains just that, a package firmly under wraps, thanks to lack of political will and bureaucratic apathy.
Formulated with the long-term objective of redressing the farm crisis and building rural infrastructure for development in the high range areas of Idukki, the package received the Union Cabinet’s nod in 2008 with a promise of Rs. 764.45 crore in assistance to enhance the livelihood of farmers, sustain development without harming the environment. Although six years have gone by, information about its implementation is at best scrappy, mostly on the websites of the Spices Board, and the Departments of Animal Husbandry and Rural Development and the Kerala Livestock Development (KLD) Board. Officials have no clarity about the progress of the Idukki package and questions often meet with the standard reply, “The package is very much there”. The truth is that except for the ongoing schemes, there is no fund available for any other scheme under the package. Information gathered through an RTI query show that only 11 % of the amount was utilised under the package till November 2013. Farmers wonder how long it would take to implement the package if this is the pace of work.
Will he, won’t he?
With BJP leader Narendra Modi all set to form the new government at the Centre, the question on many lips is whether he would accommodate one or more nominees of the BJP from the State in his government as had been done by his predecessor A.B. Vajpayee by making O. Rajagopal the Minister of State for Railways.
In the BJP, both the views prevail. While some expect Mr. Rajagopal himself to make it to the Union Cabinet, perhaps along with someone else as part of a long-term BJP strategy for Kerala, others think otherwise. Those who do not expect such representation for Kerala base their argument on the point that though Mr. Rajagopal had done much as a Minister, the party did not get any big dividend from his good deeds. But, the optimists are not ready to give in that easily. Mr. Rajagopal’s performance in the Lok Sabha elections this time and the increase in BJP votes across the State is reason enough for the party leadership to look at giving representation to the State.
(With inputs from Roy Mathew in Thiruvananthapuram, John L. Paul in Kochi, Giji Raman in Idukki and Iganatius Periera in Kollam).