TAMIL NADU

Karnataka's talks offer a delaying tactic: Ponnaiyan

CHENNAI, FEB. 9. Only through the Supreme Court can the interests of Cauvery delta farmers be protected, and not through talks with Karnataka, the Finance Minister, C. Ponnaiyan, asserted in the Assembly today.

Intervening during a discussion on the Governor's address, he said Karnataka's offer of talks on the Cauvery issue was only a delaying tactic as it had an apprehension that the final verdict of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal would go against it.

Referring to a statement by Durai Murugan (DMK) that Karnataka's proposed programme of implementing irrigation schemes in the Cauvery basin would severely affect Tamil Nadu's interests, the Minister said the State had already taken up the issue with the Tribunal.

Alleging that Karnataka was behaving like a separate nation, Mr.Ponnaiyan said it refused to abide by the directives of either the Supreme Court or the Cauvery River Authority (CRA). He admitted that the late Chief Minister, M.G. Ramachandran, went to the house of the then Karnataka Chief Minister, Gundu Rao, to get water released and the former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi came to the rescue of Tamil Nadu in times of distress. Unfortunately, the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, failed to pull up the Karnataka Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, for his refusal to obey the directives of the Supreme Court and the CRA.

The Minister's comment against Ms. Sonia Gandhi evoked strong protests from the Congress members. However, Mr. Ponnaiyan went ahead with his tirade against Karnataka and squarely blamed it for the present crisis in the delta districts. Earlier, Mr.Durai Murugan said Karnataka's move to implement 50 irrigation schemes in the Cauvery basin at a cost of Rs. 1,500 crores would deprive Tamil Nadu of Cauvery water completely. He wanted to know whether the State was aware of the programmes. If so, what steps had it taken to protect the interests of the State?

S.R. Balasubramaniam (Congress), G. Palanisamy (CPI) and J. Hemachandran (CPI-M) said there was nothing wrong in the State initiating talks with Karnataka to get water for saving the standing crops. The State should not adopt a tough stand on holding talks with Karnataka.

At one stage, the Opposition leader, K. Anbazhagan, said both the DMK and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam were against talks to find a permanent solution to the issue. But there was nothing wrong in holding talks to tide over the present crisis.

Recruitment of teachers

The Education Minister, S. Semmalai, said 5,838 elementary school teachers were appointed and 6,362 high and higher secondary school teachers were being recruited to fill vacancies. Denying that the recruitment was being made with an eye on the Lok Sabha election, he said the process was started six months ago. In one month, about 12,000 vacant teacher posts would be filled.

No incidence of bird flu

Mr. Ponnaiyan said there was no incidence of bird flu in Tamil Nadu. Allaying the fears of Opposition members, he said there was no need for any apprehension among poultry owners as there was no case of the disease in the State. The Minister gave the assurance when Mr. Balasubramaniam wanted to know whether there was any incidence of bird flu as the prices of egg and chicken had fallen following fears among consumers.

The Pattali Makkal Katchi leader, G.K.Mani, welcomed the Government's decision to bifurcate Dharmapuri district but regretted that in the process, most of the developed areas were included in the new Krishnagiri district.

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