This has reference to the nationwide full page advertisements that your Government had issued yesterday, i.e., December 10, 2011, titled an ‘Appeal’, in your name and under your signature.
I am one of those hapless Keralites, who are forced to travel outside our tiny State in search of employment (with the belief that, as an Indian, I have the constitutionally guaranteed right to work or settle in any part of India). Thankfully, I am now in Mumbai and currently not targeted by any violent politicians or their goons, unlike my brothers and sisters who are now facing the music in your State. I first thought your Appeal is addressed to those Keralites who are feeling threatened for their life in a State that is being governed by you as its Chief Minister. It was not so.
Then I thought you must be reassuring the people of Kerala, including people like me who are forced to stay out while leaving the family back home, since the ‘Appeal’ seems to have been published nationwide! But unfortunately, I found nothing reassuring for any of us in the whole page of the Newspaper.
If at all, I only felt more outraged and insulted by your ‘Appeal’. I will come to the reasons for that little later. But let me explain the reasons for this reply through this post. I have always found the Administration of your State too professional and efficient in dealing with Mullaperiyar. Therefore, I have the firm belief that your super-efficient Mullaperiyar Administration will bring this to your notice. Second reason is that unlike you, I have no access to funds to issue full page advertisements in national newspapers.
Finally, unlike your Administration, the Administration of Kerala keeps committing blunders after blunders in the matter of Mullaperiyar. Some of the reports even say that these blunders could be a result of the biggest back stabbing in the history, by our leaders, many of whom are allegedly been receiving favours from your State through some mysterious budgets in the name Mullaperiyar. However, in the interest of fairness, I would discount those reports, until proved otherwise, and merely believe that those blunders were genuine naiveté or innate sense of fairness on our/their part.
But I cannot remain silent. I have to reply you. I have to use the only medium I have; hence this blog (with the belief that the message will reach you)!
Now, coming to your ‘Appeal’. To know that it is an appeal addressed to the people of Kerala, one had to read till the last paragraph of the full page matter. Until then, it sounded merely an ‘appeal’ to the Supreme Court or the Expert Committee (EC), listing out the legalities on why Kerala’s pleas must be rejected in toto.
Anyway, thank you for reassuring that ‘we are both committed to maintaining and cherishing cordial relations’. I am glad that the last word of your appeal resonates with the first words of Kerala Chief Minister, when he said Kerala is looking for a solution that would ensure ‘Safety for Kerala and Water for Tamil Nadu’. In fact what better way than ensuring safety for Kerala and water of Tamil Nadu, for maintaining and cherishing cordial relations!
However, I must admit (at the cost of annoying you perhaps) that rest of your Appeal did not show any intent towards maintaining and cherishing cordial relations. It sounded adversary; it sounded accusatory.
I discount the first 5 paragraphs of your appeal (that is half of the whole Appeal, actually!) as merely restating the history from a perspective that suits your case. Enough has already been said in the public domain to counter many of those statements and it serves no purpose for any of us to revisit the blunders or even magnanimity of the past.
In the 6th Paragraph of your appeal, you stated that “Thus it is amply clear that the dam is safe and adequate steps have been taken by Tamil Nadu to ensure its safety”. I don’t deny that your State has taken some measures to ensure the dam’s safety at the instance of a Supreme Court order, after a bitter legal battle. But, a mere statement from you is not enough to assure the lakhs of people who are living under the threat of a disaster. You have chosen not to give any findings by any scientific agencies in support of your assurance, even though studies undertaken at the behest of our own State Government had proved otherwise, in the past.
Again the lengthy 7th Paragraph is history of the case between our two States. Matter is before Supreme Court and merely restating that in an ‘Appeal’ serves no apparent purpose. But I was mistaken; when I read your further paragraphs, it became amply clear that you are actually addressing the Supreme Court and its EC, rather than those who are affected by this issue.
You chose to quote insignificant verbal questions/answers by Judges while hearing the case, yet you did not consider it necessary to state what is said by the same Judges after the hearing on these matters were completed. For example, you quoted an observation by a Bench “if every State in inter-state disputes sought enacting a legislation not to give effect to our judgement...”. But you left unsaid that the same Court had passed final orders to the effect that ‘rising of FRL in Mullaperiyar is not an interstate water dispute and hence Supreme Court is competent to hear the case. The barring of Supreme Court in the case of interstate water issues as per Article 262 read with Section 11 of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 is not applicable in this case’. The very fact that the dispute is before Supreme Court and not before an Interstate water Dispute Tribunal is the proof for unique nature of the dispute, which you failed to address in your ‘Appeal’.
What you also left unsaid is the fact that all the previous orders in the dispute were issued on consideration of the contractual rights and obligations under the various agreements between the States alone and not on the aspects of safety of the people living downstream. In my humble opinion, what Hon’ble Court needs to first decide is the violation of the fundamental right to life, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, of the people living downstream to a Dam that has survived more than 200 % of its projected life.
You went on to explain to us about the EC appointed by the Supreme Court. But, you left unsaid that your State had challenged even the appointment of this EC but the Hon’ble Court dismissed your application on 29th March 2010 and directed the Union of India to form the EC before 30th April 2010. Even after that, your State chose to object to the examination of independent expert scientists of different IITs, who had advised State of Kerala on the danger to the Dam, before the EC.
Thereafter you proceeded to state why there is no risk as the Idukki dam is “designed to absorb the flood and to moderate flood level up to 4,00,000 cubic feet of water per second”. Even conceding that you are right (though various study reports suggest otherwise), you are silent about the fate of 100,000 people living on the banks of River Periyar, for nearly 40 Kilometres, in case of a breach in the Mullaperiyar Dam, before the water finally settles down in Idukki dam. I wouldn’t even dare to think about the effect, if the sudden rush of water from breach of Mullaperiyar Dam, along with all the debris that will carry with it, manages to endanger even Idukki dam; for the consequences will be beyond what my mind wants to even consider!
So, throughout your appeal you failed to state anything that is reassuring to us. Then you went on to insinuate that we are merely fools and are being tools in the hands of elements such a real estate mafia, vested interests, divisive forces, fear psychosis etc etc... Why add this insult to injury, Madam?
Finally, before ending this counter-appeal to you, let me raise some issues which I am sure, you are already aware of.
You have failed to state any convincing reason to support your statement that “There is no valid reason to believe that the Mullai Periyar Dam is unsafe”. For us it is a matter of life and death and it would take more than a mere statement like that from you to reassure us that a Dam that was built using an outdated technology but have stood for more than double of its projected life is still safe and need no replacement!
Your Government is continuously evading even an official level talk to find an out of court settlement. What are you worried about in talking? Can you reassure people concerned for their life, through mere legalities and technicalities?
What is your objection to a new Dam, apart from the unsubstantiated belief that the present Dam is safe? Your ‘Appeal’ completely fails to state that, if there is any. Kerala has committed before the Court and in public domain that it will not stop providing water to Tamil Nadu. Then, why this resistance to a new Dam?
Is it about the cost of a new Dam? Wouldn’t it be better to spend money on a new Dam than spending so much money on these full page advertisements that serve no purpose? Even assuming that your State does not want to spend money on this, hasn’t State of Kerala committed to spend the necessary money for the new Dam?
Is it about distrust that Kerala might refuse you water or control over the flow, after a new dam is made? Is that is so, state it upfront so that we can deal with it. You will have our (I mean ordinary Keralites) support in ensuring water supply to a region that has no other source of water. Tamil people are not merely neighbours for us but often our closest friends and relatives! But don’t depend on our support alone; go ahead and seek constitutional or legal safeguards to ensure continued supply of water to your people and land.
Finally, have you considered the after-effect of a potential disaster in Mullaperiyar Dam, even if that is remote? Do you think in such a case, there will be any more ‘cordial relations’ left between us? Do you think any government or even court will be able to force continued supply of water to Tamil Nadu, if such a disaster strikes people of Kerala?
Please understand that the stakes for both of us are enormous in this issue. We will win or lose it all together. If your advisors are saying that you can win this by defeating people of Kerala, then I can only pity them for their lack of understanding of the human nature!
Please make it a win-win for all of us. Let us build a new Dam without any further delay and ensure continued supply of water to Tamil Nadu. I am sure, even your misplaced optimism will not tell you that this Dam, from which reportedly 30 tons of surki is lost every year, will stand firm for what is remaining of the 999 years of the original lease?!
Madam, we don’t need preaching. We need action at the earliest. You can protect all your interests, but concede our right to safety!
With the hope that you will see logic in the slogan ‘Water for Tamil Nadu and Safety for Kerala’ and seize this opportunity to really show the much needed commitment to ‘maintaining and cherishing our cordial relations’.