Hartal demanding decommissioning of reservoir total in Idukki district

Kerala saw widespread protests on the Mullaperiyar dam issue on Monday, with people agitating for its decommissioning in five districts and the State capital.

In places like Karinkulam Chappathu in Idukki district, the protests almost took the form of a grass-roots level movement with people from different parts joining the stir.

Roads were clogged, though the organisers of the protest — the Mullaperiyar Action Council — did not plan a blockade. CPI leader E.S. Bijimol continued her hunger strike for the second day, while P. C. George, MLA, joined the fast on Tuesday.

Traffic held up

The hartal called by the United Democratic Front and the Left Democratic Front was total in most parts of the district. Protesters blocked vehicles at Kumili on the border with Tamil Nadu, resulting in traffic being held up for hours. However, the protesters allowed vehicles of Sabarimala pilgrims and emergency services to pass through, though pilgrims were often forced to wait for some time.

At Vallakadavu, just eight kilometres downstream of the Mullaperiyar dam, children of the locality joined the fast. Children in this area, it is said, are a scared lot, with every noise being mistaken for rushing waters.

In Thodupuzha, advocates boycotted courts. Schools and colleges remained closed. Students took out a protest march at Cheruthoni over the twin demands for decommissioning the existing Mullaperiyar dam and lowering the water level to 120 feet pending decommissioning. The protesters demanded urgent Central intervention.

Union Ministers from the State A. K. Antony, Vayalar Ravi and E. Ahamed drew flak from the protesters for their inaction.

The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha took out a march to the residence of Mr. Antony here.

The Kerala Congress (Mani) group organised dharnas in Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Idukki and Alappuzha. The party's Idukki member of the Assembly Roshy Augustine sat on a hunger strike before the Accountant-General's Office here.

Water level rises

Meanwhile, water level in the Mullaperiyar reservoir crossed the 136 feet stipulated by Kerala. Water is flowing down through all the open spillways. The district administration opened control rooms to monitor the situation and assist people in case of an emergency.