Kerala, Tamil Nadu should compromise on dam: Vayalar Ravi (Interview)

December 27th, 2011 - 2:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 27 (IANS) Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi says Kerala and Tamil Nadu should reach a compromise on the contentious Mullaperiyar dam.

“It is unfortunate there has been a confrontation,” Ravi told IANS in an interview.

Referring to street protests in his home state of Kerala, Ravi said: “People like me had advised them not to do it. But you know all political parties were involved and the Congress too had to join in at a later stage as we did not want to be seen as being indifferent.”

What would he recommend under the circumstances?

“I had made a public statement that both the chief ministers should sit in the presence of the prime minister and arrive at a compromise.

“What Kerala says is water for Tamil Nadu and safety for Kerala,” he added.

The Mullaperiyar dam, built in 1895 on around 8,000 hectares, was leased out to Tamil Nadu for 999 years by the then Travancore king. Tamil Nadu is bitterly opposed to Kerala’s demand for a new dam and a cut in storage level to 120 feet till a new dam is built.

What caused the Tamil Nadu-Kerala tensions over the dam, leading to violence in both states?

Ravi said: “One (Kerala) minister belonging to Kerala Congress (a Congress ally) warned that lakhs would die if the dam were to burst. It was a blatant statement unfortunately. It made a commotion in the state. I don’t blame him; somebody sent a report to him and then a CPI-M channel brought it out and it became an issue.”

Asked if he thought the dam was in danger, Ravi said: “You see no one said when it could break. Tamil Nadu took a position that it will stay for many more years although it is over a hundred years old. So, whose report and what study are we going by? We should have a study.”

Referring to the widespread fears expressed in Kerala, he said: “This is an issue because the area around the dam is inhabited. Livelihood, incomes and exports are all going to be affected. So, it is necessary that the two chief ministers find a solution.”

Should Kerala build a new dam?

“Tamil Nadu’s fear is they control the dam today but who will control the new dam?”

Asked about the political line taken in Tamil Nadu, Ravi said: “Rather than dragging this confrontation, one must reach a compromise. Unfortunately, the attitude of the political parties in Tamil Nadu has also been the same.

“Some are instigating innocent Tamils to attack Malayalees in Tamil Nadu. I think there are more than nine million Keralites living in Tamil Nadu. There are a large number of Malayalee labourers in Coimbatore, Chennai and Madurai.

“Some Malayalees have small businesses. So, they have become the causalities.”

Kerala also has a fair share of Tamils.

“But to be fair,” he said, “Kerala has been straight. We have ensured that no harm is brought to any person who speaks Tamil. People are sensible.

“I wish and I hope that political parties of Tamil Nadu also think alike. Violence is not right. Tamil Nadu must check it.”

(K.G. Sreenivas can be contacted at kg.sreenivas@ians.in)

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