Roshy Augustine, Idukki MLA and Kerala Congress(M) leader, began a hunger strike in front of the office of the Accountant-General here on Monday, demanding construction of a new dam to replace the existing Mullaperiyar dam.
Addressing a gathering at the protest venue, Mr. Augustine said it was time the Union government intervened in the issue.
“The Union government should take serious notice of the concerns raised about the safety of the dam and find a permanent solution to the issue,” he said. The Tamil Nadu government was not agreeing to the building of a new dam even after Kerala had assured it that water would be released for irrigation in the neighbouring State. “The water level in the dam should be decreased to 120 feet. It is also inevitable to construct a new dam to save the lives of 35 lakh people in Kerala,” he said.
He put forward a demand for a canal, 16 feet deep and 30 feet wide, to channel water to the Vandiperiyar river. The recent tremors in Idukki district and the rise in the water level above the permissible 136 feet had raised serious concerns about the safety of the 116-year-old dam.
Kerala Congress(M) general secretary Antony Raju and district unit president Kottarakkara Ponnachan were present. The Kerala Congress(M) organised dharnas in Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Idukki, Alappuzha, and Kottayam districts, which face serious risks in the event of a potential dam collapse. Besides, the LDF and the UD F organised dawn-to-dusk hartals in Idukki district.
A small group of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha workers took out a march to the residence of Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony here in protest against his alleged inaction in resolving the Mullaperiyar issue. The police stopped the protesters at barricades erected about 100 metres from the house.