26 Dec 2019  |   05:13am IST

Is this government capable of defending Mhadei?

Like the ups and downs of a seesaw, the Mhadei case gives Goa a brief high, only to bring it shattering down to earth again.

As it has happened before, it is happening again, with Goa receiving a very casual response from the Centre on the issue. This can’t continue and Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant has to act on the Mhadei issue determinedly and seriously, without any vacillation, or waiting in hope for the Centre to come to Goa’s rescue. It is Goa’s future that is at stake, and political party affiliations should be set aside in this case. It is only the interests of Goa that must decide how the State reacts. 

The keeping in abeyance of the letter giving environmental approval for the Kalsa-Bhandura project was a very minor victory, if at all it can be so called, for Goa. In a week’s time that ‘victory’ was made redundant by the new letter from the Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javdekar to the Karnataka Home Minister. The Union Minister in the letter said, that the ‘Government of India has not kept in abeyance EIA notification 2006 and has also not kept in abeyance the rule which clarified that drinking water projects do not require EC. Karnataka can start the work on Kalsa-Bhandura Nala project after gazette notification of the Tribunal and necessary forest and wildlife permissions.” This created a new controversy in the State.

Interesting that the same Union minister took weeks to respond to Goa’s pleas, even requiring reminders, but acted with such alacrity to the letter from Karnataka. Look how quickly Karnataka got a response from the Centre. Karnataka’s Home Minister wrote to the Union Minister on December 19 and got a response via a letter dated December 24, five days later. On the other hand, for Goa, getting a response took weeks. The letter that gave environmental approval to the project, was dated October 17. Goa objected to this and the chief minister even led an all-party delegation to the Union Minister on November 4. Promises of a response were not met on the deadlines, and finally there was a letter on December 18, after several reminders, starting that the original letter was being held in abeyance.

Is this how, the Centre differentiates between Goa and Karnataka? Sawant may advice the people not to panic and assure them that there will be no compromise on the Mhadei water issue, but this latest development raises major questions on the government’s ability to fight for the Mhadei waters. The fact is that Goa is clearly not a priority for the government at the Centre and the State government is not strong enough to force a decision in its favour. The government has failed here, and Karnataka is in an advantageous position. That does not give hope that Goa will get a positive response from the Centre.

It has been Herald’s position all along that on the Mhadei issue the State has to display an united front, keeping all politics aside. The opposition in Goa is now questioning the government on this latest letter, and rightly so. The Congress is calling it a betrayal and Goa Forward Party is asking who is lying to Goenkars. Under the circumstances, their statements and questions are justified. The opposition assuredly has a strong issue to charge the government with. But now, Goa can no longer be complacent. There has to be a finality to the Mhadei issue at the earliest. The Mhadei water issue has taken more twists than the river takes from its origin in the Shayadris to when it empties itself out into the Arabian Sea. It has to stop. Only a strong State government can do that. Is this government capable of this?