Obsession with DIVERSION of RIVERS

Obsession with DIVERSION of RIVERS

Dr Kalam's role from 2002 to 2007

On 25th Januray, 2007, on the eve of the 58th Republic Day of India, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India since July 2002 referring to DIVERSION of RIVERS once again said, "The interlinking of rivers and water bodies and use of technology for water collection, water recycling and water management will result in equitable distribution of water for drinking, irrigation, industry, navigation and as natural beauty. There will be no shortage of water in any part of the country nor will there be disasters due to floods, water logging etc." It was perhaps in his last speech as President on the subject.

Dr Kalam has been talking about "diversion of rivers" terming it as Networking of Rivers since August 2002. On the eve of the 55th anniversary of our Independence, he said, "It is paradoxical to see floods in one part of our country while some other parts face drought. This drought - flood phenomenon is a recurring feature. The need of the hour is to have a water mission, which will enable availability of water to the fields, villages, towns and industries throughout the year, even while maintaining environmental purity. One major part of the water mission would be networking of our rivers. Technological and project management capabilities of our country can rise to the occasion and make this river networking a reality with long term planning and proper investment...Such programmes should have a large scale people participation even at the conceptual and project planning stages. The entire programme should revolve around economic viability leading to continued prosperity for our people with larger employment potential, environmental sustainability, grass root level motivation and benefit sharing."

If one were to evaluate his performance keeping in mind the Preamble of the CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, it would appear that he did not do justice to the august office of President by proposing Diversion of Rivers/Interlinking of Rivers which was rejected by S R Hashim Commission on Water Resources, a High Power Committee of Government of India as per its Integrated Water Resource Development Plan.

Dr Kalam paid no heed to the solemn words of the Constitution. He proposed something which will cause millions of water disputes across the country and in South Asia. He did it perhaps under the influence of the ruling alliance at that moment which made the ILR project appear as if it was the panacea of all ills afflicting India nay South Asia.

Referring to diversion of rivers which he termed networking of rivers, in his 2002 speech Dr Kalam said, "Such programmes should have a large scale people participation even at the conceptual and project planning stages." He did not talk about any such participation after his proposal of ILR started taking shape at least on paper. It seems according to Dr Kalam, "people's participation" means saying "yes" to whatever governments propose be it diversion of rivers/ILR or SEZ or land acquisition.

Although Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources had promised to the nation a debate on Diversion of Rivers in both houses of the parliament. He did not call for any people's participation when in utter contempt towards parliament Ken-Betwa MOU was signed although the much-advertised debate is yet to take place? Is the debate if any meant ask the nation to accept the fait accompli?

What is most shocking is that he has till date not taken cognizance of the sane voices, which say the project is 'Not the litmus test for patriotism'. Dr Kalam chooses to hear and read only those views which support his proposition anything is contrary to his views is anti-development and anti-national.

Given below is an extract of Dr Jairam Ramesh's speech in the Rajya Sabha debate on the working of Ministry of Water Resources.

Sir, since 1951, according to the Tenth Plan document,
there have been 1,300 irrigation projects that have been taken up
for implementation, out of which, only 900 have actually been
completed. So, in this country today, there are 400 irrigation
projects being implemented at some critical levels of financing, and
I think, really this reinforces the point that I want to make that
it is really project implementation, projects under implementation,
that need to be completed. You don't need a new category
called 'projects under contemplation'.

Sir, so much has been said on river linking. This was made the
touchstone of Indian nationalism by the NDA Government.

Sir, there is an Integrated Water Resource Development Plan. This is
the Report of the National Commission for Water Resource Development
set up by the Ministry of Water Resources. That submitted its Report
in September, 1999. Sir, I am just reading from page 9 of its
Summary. This is an official, Government of India document. This was
submitted to the Ministry of Water Resources. And it is so
confidential that when I asked for this Report, without casting
aspersions on anybody, I should say, I got a small note from the
Ministry, hand written, saying that "Volume-II is highly
confidential for which a specific request has to be made, and get
the written approval of the Secretary or the Minister." But I did
manage to get Volume-I, which is obviously in the public domain.
What does Volume-I say? Volume-I says:

"The Himalayan river linking data is not freely available, but on
the basis of public information, it appears that the Himalayan river
linking component is not feasible for the period of review up to
2050."

And then it goes on highlighting what the problems are in the entire
plan of linking the Himalayan rivers.

As far as the Peninsular river component is concerned, the
conclusion of this National Commission for Integrated Water
Resources Development is that "there is no imperative necessity for
massive water transfer. The assessed needs of the basins could be
met from full development and efficient utilisation of intra-basic
resources except in the case of Cauvery and Vaigai basins. Some
water transfer from Godavari towards the south should take care of
the deficit in the Cauvery and Vaigai basins."

Sir, the point which I want to make here is that the entire weight
of technical opinion has been to proceed with caution on the river-
linking scheme.

If you look at the actual feasibility study, one feasibility study
that is actually put on the website of the Ministry, which is Ken-
Betwa link for which a feasibility study has been done, even there,
you will find, not only from a financial point of view, not only
from a project implementation point of view, but also from a human
and ecological point of view, that the implications of this river-
linking scheme are going to be quite stupendous and quite enormous.
Rather than making the river-linking scheme the touchstone of
patriotism, rather than making the entire scheme to be the litmus
test of who is Indian and who is not Indian, by these self-styled
patriots, I think we should go cautiously.

On the scale and magnitude that is being talking about, I think we
need to proceed with some caution; obviously, it needs to be
sequenced. There may be some cases where intra-basin transfers could
be financially feasible, but I do believe that in today's day and
age, with today's media, with today's civil society, it is not
possible for us to overlook the ecological and human population
resettlement consequences of such a massive scheme. Yesterday, you
would have seen in the newspapers, Sir, that there is a new study
that has come out, that has called into question the utility of
Bhakhra Nangal Dam. Sir, even today's day and age, I do not think
that we can rush into this project oblivious of the consequences of
resettlement of millions of people, and let us also face it, Sir,
India's track record in resettlement and rehabilitation has been
pathetic, has been poor. This is a blot on our collective
conscience.

With the type of track record that we have had, if we embark on this
fanciful scheme of river linking with 30 storage reservoirs
involving massive displacement of people, I think, it is going to be
fraught with grave consequences.

The above speech shows that there are parliamentarians and ministers who are aware of the concerns of the citizens but Dr Kalam pays no heed to them.

One is beginning to wonder as to why is that the President of India seems to be representing only the State of Tamil Nadu, the only state which informed the Supreme Court that it wants this project to happen because it has exhausted all its water resources. Will Dr Kalam explain to the nation as to how does he represent others for instance Kerela, which has unanimously rejected the project?

We all know our ministers and officials get post retirement enlightenment. Will Dr Kalam respond to the issues and concerns raised in a point by point manner before his retirement? or will he become enlightened only after retirement?

Why has "Inconvenient Truth" and reality of climate change not compelled a rethinking with regard to such mega projects?. Will our government pay heed? Will so called Surplus and Deficit rivers remain so?

Dr Ramesh's speech does show that there are sane voices within the government. Is Dr Kalam listening? Is media taking note?

Comments

Gopal Krishna said…
Aren't court orders for Interlining of Rivers suspect?

Following Justice B N Kirpal's order in October 2002,to Government of India to undertake Networking of Rivers project assuming consensus among Indian states,Justice Y.K.Sabharwal pursued the case despite unanimous rejection of the project by Kerela Assembly that clearly showed that the assumption was misplaced.

Justice Sabharwal directions set in motion the process of sealing of properties in designated residential areas of Delhi which were being used for commercial
purposes. This sealing went on relentlessly under the continuous supervision of Chief Justice Sabharwal's bench, monitored and directed by a Court appointed monitoring committee. When the government came up with a new master plan of Delhi 2021 which allowed mixed use and commercial activity in many of the areas which were designated as residential, Justice Sabharwal orders on the sealing continued.

Some of the facts which were not publicly known was that his two sons, Chetan and Nitin had entered into partnerships with big Mall and Commercial complex developers and had become big Commercial complex developers themselves during that time. It was clear that these orders were giving direct benefit to his sons' business. His orders are against the principles of natural justice, which say that no judge can hear a case in which he is personally interested. There was a serious conflict of interest in this case which renders his orders a nullity. It is in fact arguable that his dealing with this case in such circumstances involves an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

At the same time, it was also found that several plots were allotted to the Companies or relatives of Justice Sabharwal and which needs to be investigated to see if undue favour was shown to them and if so whether there was any quid pro quo in terms of judicial orders.

The facts thrown up in this case have very disturbing implications about the integrity of our judiciary in the highest places.

When MIDDAY newspaper reported the matter in May and June 2007 about Pawan Impex, the company of owned by sons of Justice Sabharwal which saw amazing rise in its fortune during the last two years. The reporters who reported it and their editor have been sentenced by the court.

Here is what the reporters submitted to the court and argued that truth is defence in the case of Contempt:

The story in question carried by Mid-Day newspaper on the 18th of May 2007, was a follow up of an earlier story carried by the same newspaper on 2 May 2007. In the issue of 2 May 2007, we had carried a story titled "Injustice" which essentially said that the former Chief Justice of India Justice Y.K. Sabharwal's sons owned three commercial companies, Pawan Impex, Sug Exports, and Sabs Exports whose registered offices were at the Punjabi Bagh residence of Justice Sabharwal, at the time when he was ordering the sealing of commercial premises running from residential areas.

Further investigation into the matter by the reporters of Mid-Day led to the discovery of some further startling facts. It was discovered that these companies had shifted their registered office to the official residence of Justice Sabharwal at 6, Moti Lal Nehru Place for about 10 months during 2004 while Justice Sabharwal was a judge of the Supreme Court of India.

Further investigation into the matter also revealed that on October 23, 2004, one Kabul Chawla, who happens to be the promoter and owner of Business Park Town Planners (BPTP), a real estate development company which had promoted and developed a large number of shopping malls and commercial complexes in the city of Delhi, became a director in one of the companies promoted by Justice Sabharwal's sons called Pawan Impex Pvt. Ltd. At the same time, the registered office of this company was shifted back from the official residence of Justice Sabharwal, to his personal residence at Punjabi Bagh. Soon thereafter on February 12, 2005, the wife of Kabul Chawla, Anjali Chawla was also inducted as a director of this company.

Soon after the Chawlas were inducted as directors, in June 2006, both Kabul Chawla and his wife Anjali Chawla acquired 750,000 shares each in Pawan Impex Pvt Ltd. At this time the Share capital of Pawan Impex was increased from Rs. 1 Lakh to Rs. 3 Crores. Thus, as on 31st of September 2006, the shareholding in Pawan Impex Pvt. Ltd. was equally divided between the two sons of Justice Sabharwal and Kabul Chawla and his wife Anjali. Each of them owned 750,000 shares each in this company promoted by Justice Sabharwal's sons. Thus the Chawlas, who are one of the main promoters of shopping malls in Delhi, became equal partners in the Company of Justice Sabharwal's sons.

The documents also showed that soon after the share capital of Pawan Impex was increased from Rs. 1 Lakh to Rs. 3 Crores (after the induction of the Chawlas and their investment in the company), the company took a loan of Rs. 28 Crores from the Union Bank of India at F14/15 Connaught Place (who happens to be a tenant of BPTP of the Chawlas).

The documentary evidence attesting to the above facts discovered on
investigation by the reporters of Midday was obtained from the official website of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs of the Government of India. This website contains the documents which have been filed by Pawan Impex Pvt. Ltd. regarding the shareholding, the directors, and the changes in the registered address of these companies. Copies of these documents attesting to the above facts as obtained by Mid-Day from the official website of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs of the Government of India have been annexed with the Affidavit of Mrs. Vitusha Oberoi, Editor of Mid-Day Delhi and the Deponent craves liberty to refer to an rely upon the said annexures.

The story of Mid-Day in question is based on the above documents and legitimate inferences which can be made from these documents. There had earlier been a number of reports and allegations that the Shopping Mall developers stood to gain enormously from the sealing of shops and commercial establishments functioning from residential areas which took place on Justice Sabharwal's orders. As responsible journalists we thought it to be our public duty to bring the above facts to the knowledge of the people, which appeared to show judicial impropriety at the highest level. We also spoke to some senior lawyers of the country who almost unanimously opined that if the above facts were true, the matter needed further investigation in public interest. Their comments as given to us were also carried by us in Mid-Day.

There have been a number of reports about Corruption in the Judiciary and the country has been exercised on the issue of judicial accountability. There have also been other reports about improper allotments of Plots in Noida to Justice Sabharwal's daughter in law which were also reported widely in the media. These reports were based on statements made by a Cabinet Minister and Senior advocate of the Supreme Court. It was in these circumstances, that we felt that it was our public duty to bring the above facts to the knowledge of the people of this country. There was no malicious intention on our part to bring down the reputation of the judiciary. However, the facts discovered by us presented a disturbing picture of judicial impropriety in a particular case which was felt, needed to be brought to the attention of the people since it involves matter of enormous public interest.

In such a scenario, is it contempt of court if someone said, all such orders including in the case of Networking of Rivers are suspect.

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