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Ex-RSS leader hits out at BJP top brass over Mhadei dispute


Panaji: Blaming an "idiotic" BJP-led coalition dispensation for its "meek surrender" to the diktats of the BJP high command on the Mhadei water diversion issue, former Goa RSS chief Subhash Velingkar on Thursday said, that the first signs of the central BJP's interference in the interstate water dispute with Karnataka was evident when former CM late Manohar Parrikar was the Chief Minister.

"Ahead of assembly elections in Karnataka, then Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar had written to then state Karnataka BJP president B. S. Yediyurappa, about the Mhadei issue creating scope for an out of court settlement. This was when the case was still pending before the Tribunal," Velingkar said on Thursday.

He was reacting to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest's decision to grant clearance to the Kalasa-Banduri water diversion project on Wednesday.

Goa has objected to the project in the Supreme Court, while accusing Karnataka of using the project to unfairly tap water from the Mhadei basin.

"Government of Goa is willing to consider the request to work out an amicable settlement strictly restricted to drinking water only to the drought prone areas," Parrikar had said in his letter to Yediyurappa in 2017 ahead of the assembly elections in the Southern state.

Velingkar now claims, that the letter was the handiwork of the BJP high command, who wants to use the Mhadei water sharing issue for gains in the larger and politically more significant state.

"It is clear that the BJP is only following the High Command line on Mhadei, whether it is during Parrikar's regime or now," Velingkar said. "This is an idiotic government which has meekly surrendered to the BJP high command at the cost of the interest of Goa and Goans," he also said.

The former RSS leader, who heads Goa Suraksha Manch, a regional political party, has demanded the summoning of a special session of the state assembly to discuss the fallout of the environment clearance to the Kalasa-Banduri project.

Opposition leaders have attacked Chief Minister Pramod Sawant for not efficiently pressing Goa's case with the Centre, vis a vis the controversial project.

Responding to the allegations, Sawant has also said, that his office was in the dark and that he would be appealing against the clearance in the National Green Tribunal.

The Mhadei, or Mandovi, river, is known as a lifeline in the northern parts of Goa. It originates in Karnataka and meets the Arabian Sea in Panaji in Goa, while briefly flowing through Maharashtra.

The Tribunal hearing the over two-decade old dispute between Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra over Mhadei river water sharing had, in its award in August 2018, allotted 13.42 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) from the Mhadei river basin (including 3.9 TMC for diversion into the depleted Malaprabha river basin) to Karnataka. Maharashtra has been allotted 1.33 TMC.

Both Karnataka and Goa have publicly expressed reservations about the Tribunal's award and have also approached the Supreme Court for relief.

The Goa government in a petition to the Court has also accused Karnataka of "illegally" building infrastructure in its jurisdiction, to divert additional water from the Mhadei river basin.

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