The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dialogue salve on water wounds
- Chief minister offers olive branch to farmers on Hirakud issue

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 12: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today offered the olive branch to agitating farmers of western Orissa over the diversion of water from Hirakud reservoir to industries.

“I am ready for talks with the farmers to discuss whatever their reasonable demands are,” Naveen told reporters today.

“Requirements of farmers have been our first priority. Whatever water is required from Hirakud reservoir, or any other source, for agriculture would be provided to farmers. Surplus water would be used to meet other requirements.”

The chief minister’s statement came in the wake of continuing agitation by farmers of western Orissa opposing the allocation of Hirakud water to industries.

Meanwhile, the agitating farmers have erected a brick wall near the Jamadarpalli air strip in Sambalpur and named it Chashi Rekha (farmers’ boundary line), warning the administration not to lay pipeline after the line.

The agitation has intensified following police lathicharge on agitating farmers at Burla on November 6. All the Opposition parties and farmer organisations have condemned the action and supported the cause of farmers. Congress, the main Opposition party in the state, has demanded a judicial probe into the lathicharge. The Nationalist Congress Party has sought the cancellation of the MoUs with the industrial houses who intend to draw water from Hirakud reservoir and the Mahanadi canal system.

Even the farmers’ wing of the ruling BJP, which has a strong base in western Orissa, has supported the agitation over Hirakud water and called Naveen “anti-farmer”.

Orissa is basically an agrarian state and farmers constitute the major chunk of the population.

Perhaps perturbed over the developments ahead of coming Assembly polls, the chief minister today expressed his desire to hold a dialogue with the farmers to nip the agitation. He, however, rejected the Nationalist Congress Party’s demand for cancellation of MoUs.

The chief minister assured supply of water to industries from the Mahanadi.

“Opposition parties make several demands. But we will do whatever is correct,” he said.

Naveen said his government would examine the recent Supreme Court order restriction the acquisition of fertile agriculture land for establishment of special economic zones.

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