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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Mhadei River is not a political water tank for political leaders to decide on who gets water or not


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Union Home Minister Amit Shah at his rally in Belgavi on January 28 made a shocking and terribly disappointing statement on the current controversial issue – the Mhadei River.

In his statement to the people of Karnataka, Amit Shah said, “I want to congratulate the leaders and Chief Minister of Karnataka that they have taken along the Goa government on the Mhadei issue to quench the thirst of the people of Karnataka. The Chief Minister has done a great job.”

He further went on to express, “I want to remind Congress leader Sonia Gandhi of her speech in Goa, wherein she said that Mhadei water would never be allowed to be diverted.”
Again, he added, in 2022, Congress said in its manifesto that the Congress party would make sure that Karnataka does not get even a drop of water.

“I have come here to tell you that the Bharatiya Janata Party has resolved such a big dispute between the two states and given Mhadei water to Karnataka farmers and brought respite to several districts in the State,” he further elucidated.

I have the utmost respect for the political astuteness of Amit Shah. And I understand that Karnataka is heading for an election; therefore it is important to woo the people of that neighbouring state and pacify them over the contentious Mhadei River issue.

Let’s be honest Goa is not going into the Assembly election for another four years, so there is no need to placate Goans over the Mhadei issue. Moreover, most of the MLAs in the Goa government at this point in time are in the BJP and no one in their coterie is going to dare lock horns with Amit Shah at the Centre.

Post the December 27th, 2022 meeting between Goa Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant and  Amit Shah; and later on, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the subsequent statement of the Chief Minister of Karnataka Basavraj Bommai to the media that the Centre has approved the DPR of the Karnataka government on Mhadei river, it was clear that Centre and Goa had reached some high-level understanding, which the mere mortals on the ground (people of Goa) are not privy too. That some understanding was reached is clearly evident because Amit Shah as a senior political leader is not known to make statements without absolute surety on the point he is making a statement on and in Belgavi he has categorically stated that both the Karnataka and Goa government resolved the Mhadei river issue and quenched the thirst of the people of Karnataka.

The statement of Amit Shah is shocking because, since December 27, 2022, Dr Pramod Sawant as the Chief Minister of Goa has been repeatedly telling the people of Goa with the rest of the ministers in the Goa government about the fight that the Goa government is ready to undertake to save ‘Mother Mhadei’.

In fact, a delegation led by Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant on January 11, met Amit Shah and urged him to withdraw the approval given to the DPR of Karnataka. Pramod told the media that the meeting with Amit Shah was ‘Positive’. But it appears that Pramod’s ‘Positive’ comment might not be for the benefit of us Goans if one is to deliberate on Amit Shah’s statement in Belgavi. COVID-19 has taught us that not every ‘Positive’ is good.

Post Amit Shah’s statement, Dr Pramod Sawant took to the social media platform Twitter to tell the people of Goa, “We have asked for an early hearing by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Mhadei matter. We will continue to fight for every drop of water that rightfully belongs to Goa. The DPR of Karnataka has also not received the necessary Environment clearances. I assure the people of Goa that my Government will protect Goa’s interests.” Sadly, the only comment he made to the local media on Amit Shah’s controversial statement is that he did not see the video of Amit Shah’s comment and that he would study the matter.

I do not think that any minister in Goa or for that matter in any part of India in the BJP will have the courage to question Amit Shah on his statement. And therefore, I do not think Pramod will have the courage to comment on Amit Shah’s exposure that the Goa government along with Karnataka has resolved the Mhadei river issue.

The more intriguing truth over Amit Shah’s statement is the fact the matter concerning the Mhadei river is still under hearing in the Supreme Court. SC is listening to the objections raised by Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Goa over the Tribunal Award. The Centre approving the DPR is itself questionable. Therefore, the question that arises is the statement of Amit Shah: When and who resolved the Mhadei river issue between Goa and Karnataka when the matter is still in SC?

This is not the first time Amit Shah has made a bullish statement on Mhadei: In 2018, while touring the districts in North Karnataka assured the people in Kalaburagi that the party would solve the Mhadei dispute once it comes to power in the state. He also said that it was difficult to solve the issue when different parties were ruling in Karnataka and Goa. While that as a reality might be true. In five years Mhadei river continues to remain a contentious issue because the solution lies only in the SC and not in decisions taken in political board rooms taken with political leaders who think they control the destiny of a state.

Amit Shah and political leaders across political parties must introspect and have a date with the reality that the Mhadei river is not a political water tank of political parties for political leaders to decide who gets or does not get water. It is the lifeline of the people of Goa. May the Ministers and MLAs might not have the temerity to question the Centre for fear of being made an outcast but the people of Goa do not carry about political parties, they care about their future and right now on the Mhadei river issue, the people of Goa are not going to be silent because it about the future of their children.

The Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant might get his Ministers and MLAs to speak eloquently on the commitment of the Goa government under his leadership to not let a drop of water from the Mhadei river be diverted and epitomise in words that Mhadei is their ‘Mother’ but it is sounding like an empty vessel that makes the most noise to most people in Goa after the truthful statement by Amit Shah.

While I disagree with Amit Shah and completely disagree with the stand of the Centre to support Karnataka in its intent to divert water from the Mhadei river as part of its election strategy by approving the DPR, I appreciate his stand to stay true to his election driven decision on the Mhadei river and to tell the people of Goa the truth candidly, that Goa and Karnataka have resolved the issue. I understand that for Amit Shah it is the electoral gain that matters. Sometimes you can sacrifice the interests of one small state over a larger state.

The real disappointment is Dr Pramod Sawant because he still has not made a single comment on Amit Shah’s statement which clearly means that what Amit Shah said must be the truth or it means the CM does not have the courage to question Amit Shah because he is afraid of losing the CM’s chair.

Playing politics over water is despicable. It is a lifeline. But unfortunately, the politics of water has only scratched the surface in India. It is only the beginning of water politics in India.

People in Goa must unite and keep politics aside because any diversion to the Mhadei river will lead to unfavourable water security in Goa. Mhadei river is not a political water tank.




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