Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Wednesday said that his government will go ahead with the Mekedatu reservoir project across the Cauvery river in Ramanagara district, however, for now, Covid-19 third wave is the top priority.
Besides, he emphasised that the health of the people of Karnataka is the state government’s “primary duty”.
At a press conference in Bengaluru, CM Bommai said, “When it comes to land and water-related issues, all political parties have worked together. Our government is committed to embracing the project, taking all political parties to confidence in the Mekedatu issue but for now, the COVID-19 epidemic third wave covered the state of Karnataka and especially Bengaluru. We need to take all necessary measures to curb COVID-19, “said the Chief Minister.
“The health of the people of Karnataka and Bengaluru is our primary duty. Thus commitment to perform this duty needs to be shown. The government wants the cooperation of all without violating the law governing the epidemic,” he added.
Mekedatu is closer to Tamil Nadu border and Karnataka is planning to build a dam there to conserve water during floods. It aims to bring the same water to Bengaluru, about 200 kilometers away, and irrigate the parched lands in some districts of old Mysore region. Tamil Nadu has already gone against the proposed dam and the matter is being heard by the Supreme Court.
Bommai has long maintained that his government is committed to implement Mekedatu project.
Further, Bommai said that his government is “under pressure” to initiate action against the Congress leaders and stop the Mekedatu padayatra from entering Bengaluru.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra on Tuesday said the government will take appropriate action at an appropriate time. “We will take an appropriate action at an appropriate time. It’s not that we are letting them go. We are taking action. We are registering cases,” Jnanendra said while briefing reporters on the virtual meeting chaired by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on COVID-19. The minister alleged that those participating in the ‘Padayatra’ were getting infected while many did not get themselves tested despite symptoms.
To a query why the government permitted the Congress and let them continue with their march, Jnanendra said there was no permission given to them. “Congress is a responsible opposition party, which had run the government in the past. We are waiting for them to stop or postpone the padayatra on their own,” Jnanendra said.
He ruled out appealing to the Congress to withdraw its march. “We haven’t thought of appealing to them. They have to make up their mind and stop the padayatra,” the minister said.
He accused former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who had reportedly asked the BJP government why it did not execute the project when it was in power from 2008 to 2013, of misleading people on the Mekedatu issue. “During that time (from 2008 to 2013), the case was pending before the Cauvery Water Tribunal and the court. After 2013, all the pending cases were cleared when Siddaramaiah took over. He could have done it after that,” the minister said. He alleged that the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government behaved irresponsibly and did nothing except for taking five years to get a feasibility report.
Claiming that the previous Congress government did injustice to the people of Karnataka with regard to the Mekedatu issue, the minister demanded that Siddaramaiah apologise for it. To a query on what has been done in the last two-and-half years, Jnanendra said the BJP government got the stay vacated in July.
“Just when we did almost everything (for Mekedatu project), these people took out the padayatra,” the minister said. Hitting out at the Congress, the minister said the project is a sensitive issue with a bearing on the interstate relationship between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
“It’s a sensitive issue. Tamil Nadu will not sit idle. padayatra, the Congress has attempted to scuttle the project,” Jnanendra alleged. The balancing reservoir project was mooted by the Karnataka government to utilise the state’s share of Cauvery water to meet the drinking water needs of Bengaluru and neighbouring districts.
However, the Tamil Nadu government is opposed to the project saying that it will hurt the interests of their state, especially farmers.
The Karnataka High Court questioned the ruling BJP on Wednesday as to why is it incapable of initiate action against the Congress leaders who took out the padayatra despite curfew orders.
(Inputs from agencies)