NATIONAL

Centre denies `north-south' divide on linking of rivers

NEW DELHI, MARCH 24. The Centre today absolved itself of undertaking the Ken-Betwa and Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal river links in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan on a priority basis, saying in the Rajya Sabha that these links were identified by the previous National Democratic Alliance Government.

Responding to the charge levelled by the AIADMK leader, P.G. Narayanan, that the United Progressive Alliance Government was indulging in a ``north-south'' divide on linking of rivers, the Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Suresh Pachauri, said that it was not a matter of the southern or the northern region. ``Our priority is clear: the National Common Minimum Programme envisages that the UPA Government will make a comprehensive assessment of the feasibility of linking rivers starting with the southern rivers. In this connection the Water Resources Minister, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, has said he would hold consultations with concerned Ministers.''

Quoting from a letter he received from Mr. Dasmunshi, he said the UPA Government was not responsible for identifying the Ken-Betwa (and Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal) link as priority. The peninsular component meant that the 14 identified links comprising south and north, the sources of which are not from the Himalayan component.

Raising the issue during zero hour, Mr. Narayanan quoted newspaper reports to say that Mr. Dasmunshi, had said the linking of rivers in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (Ken-Betwa and Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal) would be taken up on a priority basis while the southern rivers would have to wait for 20 years.

Emphasising that the southern States were starved of water, Mr. Narayanan said that it would be natural justice to start linking rivers in the south. He alleged that leaders in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal did not want the waters of north India to be given to the south. ``These leaders talk of national integration but would like southern states to be treated as colonies.''

But when he said the 40 Lok Sabha MPs from Tamil Nadu should take up the issue or the people of the State would give them a ``fitting reply'' in the next Assembly elections, several Congress members were on their feet. V. Narayanasamy (Congress) asked the AIADMK member not to politicise the issue. ``Whether north or south India, the southern States are starved of water and the Centre must give them adequate attention.'' He demanded that the Government clarify the position in the House.

S. Thirunavukkarasar (BJP) said the issue was not a question of the north or the south but of the entire nation.

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