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Ponnala abandons visit to Babli site

Special Correspondent

Maharashtra imposes ban orders at site

Standoff over project takes serious turnCWC to inspect project and submit report

HYDERABAD: The standoff over the Babli project took a serious turn on Thursday when the Maharashtra Government clamped prohibitory orders at the site to pre-empt the visit of Major Irrigation Minister Ponnala Lakshmaiah. Maharashtra's turnabout from its earlier offer forced the Minister to abandon his plan to visit Babli.

Some comfort

The State Government, however, received some comfort when the Supreme Court advanced the date of hearing of the Babli case to April 25. Simultaneously, the Prime Minister's office asked the Central Water Commission (CWC) to inspect the project and submit a report at the earliest.

Ban orders under Section 144 were issued by the Nanded Collector on the ground that Mr. Lakshmaiah's visit might result in " an unpleasant situation" and create law and order problems. The Nanded SP faxed a message to the Nizamabad Collector informing him of the ban orderthat was later forwarded to the State Government. He suggested that only a joint political visit would be desirable in view of the tense situation in the area.

Reviewing the developments with the Minister and senior officials, Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy noted that by preventing Mr. Lakshmaiah's visit, the Maharashtra Government, by its action, had clearly established that it was illegally constructing Babli.

Mr. Lakshmaiah told The Hindu later that the fax message and the letters addressed to him by the Maharashtra Government on Wednesday accepting his proposal for the visit, would be produced before the Supreme Court. He later sent a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh requesting him to fix a date in two to three days for a joint visit to the site as suggested by the Nanded SP.