The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jaya seeks national tag on rivers

New Delhi, Aug. 28: Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa today sought nationalisation of all inter-state rivers, slamming Karnataka’s “callous and indifferent attitude” towards the Cauvery water dispute, but added that despite their differences she would extend all help to S.M. Krishna to arrest Veerappan.

In his latest strike on Sunday, the forest brigand abducted former Karnataka minister H. Nagappa.

Jayalalithaa, who walked out of the Cauvery River Authority’s meeting last night, accused Krishna of deliberately not releasing water to her state. Pointing to articles in newspapers on Veerappan and the Cauvery issues, she also assailed a section of the media for “false, factually misleading reports”. Jayalalithaa said she was at the meeting for one-and-a-half-hours, but still it was written she had walked out.

At a news conference here, the ADMK chief said she attended the meeting in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directive. The apex court had asked the river authority to meet and take an appropriate decision before reporting back to it by September 2. Jayalalithaa said her state would not participate in such meetings in the future as they did not serve any purpose. “We will wait when the Supreme Court takes up the matter on September 2,” she said.

As a long-term measure, the chief minister said the Centre must nationalise all inter-state rivers and ensure that provisions of the River Water Tribunal’s awards were fulfilled.

Jayalalithaa said that at last night’s meeting, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and water resources minister Arjun Sethi had repeatedly asked Krishna to spell out how much water his state would release. Krishna, she said, replied he would think about it only after September. Krishna, she added, also said it was not obligatory for the Cauvery authority to convey any decision to the apex court by September 2.

“The Karnataka chief minister is trying to obfuscate the issue and not agreeing to any kind of proposal,” Jayalalithaa said, explaining that she walked out only after her Karnataka counterpart took a tough stand that no water would be released.

“How long we would wait for the water,” she asked, pointing out that kurvai (kharif) crops had already been ruined and her state needed water to start operations for samba (rabi) crops. It was clear that the Karnataka chief minister came to the meeting last night with a “pre-meditated determination” not to release water, she said, adding that time was running out and there was no option left for her state but to approach the apex court.

Jayalalithaa made it clear that Tamil Nadu could not be treated as a “drainage outlet” with Karnataka releasing water only when its four reservoirs were overflowing. “Water should be given to us when we need and if there is a distress it has to be shared,” she said.

On Veerappan, Jayalalithaa said Vajpayee had assured her of Central assistance in arresting the bandit. She also took up the issue with L.K. Advani.

The deputy Prime Minister assured her of the Centre’s full “cooperation and coordination”.

The ADMK leader ruled out granting amnesty to the bandit and accused the previous DMK government of lacking the political will to nab him. “There is no question of granting any amnesty to Veerappan,” Jayalalithaa said.

“Once he is captured, he will have to face legal action and pay the penalty for all his crimes.”

The chief minister said the Karunanidhi government had called a halt to Special Task Force operations after the ADMK lost in the 1996 elections. She said the task force had reduced Veerappan’s 150-strong gang to only five between 1991 and 1996 and he was about to surrender when Assembly elections were held.

“Not a single operation took place till actor Raj Kumar was abducted,” she claimed, adding that this had allowed Veerappan to regroup. “My government has shown no lack of any political will after I took over and the STF has in the last one year arrested quite a few of Veerappan’s associates.”

In reply to another question, she said that despite political initiatives in Sri Lanka, V. Prabhakaran, the fugitive leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, should be extradited to India to face trial in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. “Simply because political moves are on in Sri Lanka... That cannot forget the basic facts. Prabhakaran should be extradited to face trial for his involvement in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi,” Jayalalithaa said.

She added that Prabhakaran has been declared a proclaimed offender by a designated court in the country.

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