Monday, March 5, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Resolve inter-state rows, PM tells CMs
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Ranjit Sagar Dam, March 4
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today urged the Chief Ministers of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh to resolve their long-pending inter-state disputes amicably in the larger interests of the country.

After dedicating the Rs 3800-crore prestigious multi-purpose project, named after the legendary Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Mr Vajpayee said the Centre was ready to provide every assistance to the states for exploiting the “power and irrigation” potential of the northern states to the optimum level.

After the Rajiv-Longowal accord signed on July 24, 1985, which had not been implemented so far, this is for the first time that the Prime Minister has asked the Chief Ministers of the three states to sit together for chalking out programmes for implementing various plans.

Mr Vajpayee pointed out that more than 400 irrigation and other projects were either in the pipeline or could not be completed due to financial or other reasons. The delay in completion of such projects had invariably increased the cost of the projects. He said projects must be completed in time. Hence, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh could exploit the inter-state river waters available with them through joint ventures.

Mr Vajpayee said that the central government had succeeded in resolving the Cauvery water dispute with the cooperation of the Chief Ministers concerned which could be true in case of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal. He urged that all states must get ready to resolve their pending issues. He said there were many issues like unemployment which could be sorted out with the overall development of the country.

Earlier, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief Minister, Himachal, while addressing the gathering stated that Himachal had power potential of more than 20,000 mw which could be possible with joint ventures only. Apart from ending the power crisis, it could uplift the economy of Himachal. He offered to settle outstanding issues with Punjab and Haryana. Though Mr Om Prakash Chautala, Chief Minister, Haryana, had raised a controversy by giving a statement yesterday, demanding a 50 per cent share from the Thein Dam project, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, claimed that he was getting all possible cooperation from his Haryana counterpart.

Taking strong exception to the destruction of ancient Buddhist relics, Mr Vajpayee said the rulers of Afghanistan did not seem to be true Muslims as many Islamic countries had already condemned the uncivilised and barbaric act. He said he was personally shocked as he himself saw these relics during his visit to Afghanistan. He also described it as a shameful act which did not care for the sentiments of humanity.

Remembering the legendary Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Mr Vajpayee said the great ruler had expanded his rule up to Afghanistan due to his secular policies. However, Indians were facing great threat in the same country. He said the government would ensure the safety of Indians at all costs.

Expressing satisfaction over the completion of Thein Dam, Mr Vajpayee said it was a matter of coincidence that the foundation stone of the prestigious Ranjit Sagar Dam was laid in 1977 during the chief ministership of Mr Badal and now it was completed when Mr Badal was again Chief Minister.

In a significant announcement, Mr Vajpayee said the allocation of funds won’t come in the way of completion of the Shahpur Kandi project, near Ranjit Sagar Dam. The optimum use of Ranjit Sagar could not be taken unless the Shahpur Kandi project was commissioned. This project could not be completed due to non-availability of funds.

Mr Vajpayee denied the charge that he had always favoured Punjab. He, however, said the states contributing to the national cause got priority as far as the allocation of development projects was concerned.

Pointing towards the formation of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the absence of a clear majority to a single party, Mr Vajpayee said it seemed that the country had entered an era of coalition governments.

He said it was a matter of satisfaction that the people of the country always got united whenever there was an emergency like the Kargil war and the Gujarat earthquake. He said the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund had received maximum contributions at the time of the Gujarat earthquake.

However, Mr Vajpayee did not respond to the demand of the Chief Minister for giving special economic status to Punjab on the pattern of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

Earlier, Mr Suresh Prabhu, Union Power Minister, said more power would be generated from hydel projects in the future. He urged the states to cooperate in plugging power theft so that electricity could be provided to consumers at cheaper rates.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, speaking on the occasion, thanked Mr Vajpayee for allocating Rs 800 crore for completion of the Ranjit Sagar Dam since 1997. He said the project could have been completed if the previous Congress governments had released sufficient funds in time.

He said Himachal Pradesh had vast potential in power generation. Hence, the Punjab Government could install more projects there for a 24-hour power supply to consumers. Mr Badal said Mr Vajapyee had taken a number of steps to improve ties with Pakistan. He had initiated the bus diplomacy and announced the ceasefires as a gesture of goodwill. “What else can a Prime Minister of a country do for improving relations with the neighbouring country”, he asked.

In yet another significant statement, Mr Badal announced an increment to all 14,000 employees of the Ranjit Sagar Dam. He said the state government would give jobs to the kith and kin of those employees who had died while working on the dam. Arrears to the tune of Rs 6 crore given to the employees would not be recovered.

Mr Badal urged the Prime Minister to give special incentives to industry in the border districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepore. He said Punjab was basically an agricultural state which had contributed the most to the Central pool. Hence, the Central Government should allocate sufficient funds for research on agriculture.

He also demanded remunerative support prices for wheat, paddy and other agricultural produce. However, Mr Vajapyee, during his speech, skipped all demands raised by the Chief Minister.

Earlier, Mr Vajpayee laid a wreath at the memorial of 135 workers and engineers who laid down their lives while working on the dam.


Tribune News Service

Ranjit Sagar Dam, March 4
Unprecedented security measures annoyed many ’VVIPs’. Mr Sikandar Singh Maluka, Minister for Power, was seen rebuffing a senior IPS officer when the latter objected on the entry of minister’s car in a highly protected zone. On this Mr Maluka directed the IPS officer to withdraw his own vehicle from the security zone which he did. Mr Maluka and other ministers of Punjab were seen exchanging hot words with national security guards and officials of the PM’s security.

The knowledge of some Punjab ministers and the SGPC chief about Himachal turned out to be extremely poor because they spelled out the name of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, differently.

While the Union Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, described him as “Mr Dhumal Kumar” the SGPC chief spelled it out as “Prem Singh Dhumal”. Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, Agricultural Minister, spelled out the name of local Member Parliament as “Manohar Khanna” instead of Vinod Khanna.

Though the Rs 3800-crore Thein Dam has been named after legendry Maharaja Ranjit Singh, yet except for the Prime Minister no leader mentioned his name during speeches. Mr Parkash Singh Badal was the only speaker who spoke in Punjabi. All other speakers, including Secretary-General, Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, and Mr Balram Ji Dass Tandon, delivered their speeches in Hindi. Since Mr Dhindsa was unable to speak the national language properly it caused repeated laughter.

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