What came out of it? Well, a clutch of posters declaiming that the problems of the Lankan Tamils have been alleviated.
You can’t think of a more sordid show of self-promotion than this. The Hogenekkal water dispute protest too was reduced to being a senseless drama. Ditto on the vexed Cauvery waters matter. And now the Mullaiperiyar dam imbroglio with Kerala is going much the same way with a protest meeting, to be helmed by the Chief Minister, set to happen at Madurai.
What purpose will this crass mike-mongering act serve is anybody’s guess. Just look at the chicanery of it all: The State government feels that it has been done in by the Central government as it had allowed Kerala to conduct a survey at the Mullaiperiyar dam site.
If Karunanidhi has any rational ideas left with him, he should be flying to New Delhi and take up the matter in person with the Prime Minister and not adjourn to Madurai to deviously orchestrate a burlesque drama.
What prevents Karunanidhi from threatening to walk out of the UPA if the legitimate interests of the State are not served? Why doesn’t he have the courage to pointedly name Jairam Ramesh, the Environment Minister who controversially allowed permission for the survey, as the man responsible for Tamilnadu’s present predicament? Politics and pelf, dear sirs, are the answer.
The Centre itself is much to blame for the cussed impasse. The dubious deadlock has come about following Kerala’s refusal to honour the Supreme Court verdict that directed the dam’s storage level be raised to 142 feet from the current 136 feet.
Even the findings of a Supreme Court appointed high-level committee of experts on the safety of the dam have failed to convince Kerala. The committee comprised BK Mittal of CVC, representatives from the governments of Kerala and Tamilnadu, two chief engineers of the CVC, chief engineer of the Dam Safety Organisation of Madhya Pradesh, and a retired chief engineer of Uttar Pradesh.
The committee, after studying the dam’s stability, and conducting stress and strength analysis, submitted its report in 2001. It found the dam safe and recommended raising the storage level to 142 feet.
Tamilnadu controls the dam situated in Kerala’s Idukki district through an agreement signed between the erstwhile princely State of Travancore and the then Madras government in 1886. An impression has also been created that Tamilnadu wants to increase the storage level from 136 feet to 142 feet but few know that the full capacity of the dam is 152 feet, and that the level was reduced to 136 feet only in 1979.
Apart from the safety factor, Kerala had also argued that portions of the Periyar Tiger Reserve would be submerged if the storage level is increased to 142 feet.
Experts point out that in the last 30 years, since the water level is being maintained at 136 feet, the water spread area has considerably reduced, leaving large areas of the leased areas vacant.
Kerala has encroached upon large tracts of the dam’s land. Any portion that gets submerged if the dam reaches its storage capacity is part of the land leased to Tamilnadu. Tamilnadu PWD officials have been working in difficult conditions at the dam.
There is no power supply in the dam area at night and have to make do with hurricane lamps, as the Kerala government disconnected power supply four years ago after an elephant was electrocuted.
The Supreme Court too, it seems, has erred in not asserting itself. After the Kerala government failed to implement its order, the Apex Court must have put its foot down on the rowdyish recalcitrance. But it chose to be strangely benign at the obvious slight to its authority.
Instead it artlessly chose to broker peace between the two States by directing the two governments to resolve the issue through negotiation. Even then, Kerala reiterated its stand that under no circumstance it would agree to increase the storage level to 142 feet.
Actually, in the face of such blind intransigence there appears to be no solution in sight. But political powers will keep tilting at the windmills. Putting on an act is their job.