The Tamil Nadu government has decided not to attend the proposed talks on the Mullaperiyar dam dispute issue to be held in New Delhi on December 16.

The talks have been convened by the Union government, inviting Secretaries of the governments of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in charge of irrigation.

Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had directed the Union Water Resources Ministry to arrange official-level talks between the two States.

On Wednesday evening, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa chaired a meeting with senior Minsters and officials and discussed with them several issues in the light of the dam dispute.

An official says that the State government would prefer to await the completion of the task assigned to the Empowered Committee, which was constituted in February 2010 on the directions of the Supreme Court to analyse various issues [except legal] of the dam dispute. When the Committee is seized of the matter, there is no point in holding discussion now with Kerala.

A communication from the State government was sent to the Central government, intimating its decision.

Ban on film

The government has extended the suspension of the screening of the controversial film “Dam 999” by two more weeks, invoking powers vested under provisions of the Tamil Nadu Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1955. The ban, imposed on November 24, was to expire on Thursday. An order, issued by the State Home Department, extended it for two more weeks from Friday. The order stated that the period of suspension would continue to be in force in view of the fact that “the screening of the film ‘Dam 999' in the State of Tamil Nadu will cause a breach of peace and law and order.”

In a letter sent to film director Sohan Roy, Principal Secretary (Home), Rameshram Mishra, stated that in response to the director's request for adjournment of the proposed personal hearing on Thursday, the department had decided to hold it on December 15. [As per the Act, the person concerned should be given a “reasonable opportunity” of showing cause against the order.]

However, the Department held a hearing on Thursday for the film distributor of the State, R.V. Mahalingam.

One of the reasons cited by the government in its communication to the film director was that characters in the film spoke of the theme that a dam, though built for drinking water and irrigation requirements, was a potential disaster on account of tremor and breach, “which was explicitly spelt [out] in the film as ten times dangerous a nuclear disaster.” Such deliberations were likely to shatter the public faith in the beneficial factors of the very existence of dams, the government's communication stated.

In his first reply, Mr. Roy stated, “You have wrongly assumed that the subject of the movie is based on [the] Mullaperiyar Dam.” In the film, he had neither mentioned the name of the dam nor any information about structure or design regarding the dam.”

In his subsequent letter, the film director expressed his inability to attend the personal hearing in Chennai on Wednesday as he would have to be in New Delhi.

The hearing, he said, was not proper as the matter was sub judice since he had moved the Supreme Court challenging the State government's decision.

While informing the postponement of the hearing to December 15, the Principal Secretary (Home) stated that except for one issue (wherein the director clarified that the Censor had muted a reference 999-year leasehold rights to a dam), the reply did not “satisfactorily” explain other issues.