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August date for Krishna tribunal

New Delhi, Aug. 4: The Centre announced in the Lok Sabha tonight the setting up of a Krishna water disputes tribunal by the end of this month.

The announcement came at the end of a seven-hour debate over sharing of river waters between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, marked by frequent verbal clashes between members from the two states who accused each other of violating norms.

This would be the second such panel as a tribunal on sharing of the river’s waters was set up in 1969.

Minister for water resources Arjun Charan Sethi, who replied to the debate, said the Centre has received requests from the three Krishna basin states — Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra — to set up such a tribunal. The panel, to be set up before August 31, will give its report within three years. If needed, the tribunal’s term could be extended by another two years, he said.

Andhra’s ruling Telugu Desam Party, which gave notice for the discussion, came out poorly in the debate involving 22 members, as several Congress MPs from both Karnataka and Andhra took pot shots at the Desam for its inability to get the Centre’s support.

Desam leader Yerran Naidu, who initiated the discussion, alleged that Congress president Sonia Gandhi refused to grant an appointment to Andhra chief minister Chandrababu Naidu when he visited New Delhi last month with an all-party delegation to meet the Prime Minister to find a solution to the dispute.

Congress leader Shivraj Patil countered this by saying: “By bringing in Sonia Gandhi in the matter, they (Desam) want to cover up for their inefficiencies.”

The Desam sought the Centre’s intervention to resolve the dispute, while many others from Karnataka sought the setting up of a parliamentary committee.

Yerran Naidu alleged that the Karnataka government had violated all norms by constructing illegal projects.

Yerran Naidu asked government to send a high-level team to Karnataka to find out the status of projects undertaken by the state government that were leading to deficiency of water in Andhra Pradesh. He repeatedly referred to Sonia’s “indifference” as Karnataka is ruled by the Congress.

However, Congress leaders including Shivraj Patil, Jaipal Reddy, R.L. Jalappa, Janardhan Reddy said Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu had failed to get the support of the central government despite extending the support of 29 party MPs to the ruling coalition at the Centre.

“The Desam is politicising the issue. This is a matter being looked after by the Central Water Commission, the Supreme Court and, ultimately, the Government of India,” Shivraj Patil said.

Janardhan Reddy charged the Desam with politicising the issue. The Andhra government had failed to get the central government to resolve the issue, though the chief minister was the “king maker” and his government could get rice from the Centre.

“The TDP sustained this government and they failed to get anything from the Centre,” said Jaipal Reddy.

BJP member Dhananjay Kumar of Karnataka also spoke in support of his state, criticising the Desam for misleading the people by concealing facts. He asked the Desam why it had “hurried” with a debate in the House when the Centre had announced that it would soon set up a new tribunal.

The debate saw rare camaraderie between the usually warring parties in Tamil Nadu. The DMK, the ADMK and the MDMK members also attacked Karnataka by using the opportunity to rake up the Cauvery water controversy.

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