Positive verdict in favour of UDF in Kerala Wednesday, Mar 21 2012 

Anoop Jacob

Anoop Jacob

The electoral verdict in Piravom bypoll is a positive vote in favour of the Chief Minister Ooomen Chandy. It unequivocally shows that the people want the Chandy government to continue whatever be its shortfalls.

The unity and support of various communities have indeed played a role. However, a 12000 plus margin would not have been possible because of such factors. For UDF voters have already been swayed in favour of (late) T. M. Jacob and his son Anoop Jacob who won the election.

It is ridiculous to argue that the resignation of Neyyattinkara member of the Assembly R. Selvaraj (CPI-M) had an impact on the by-election. More prominent leaders of the CPI (M) have quit the party in the past and their impact was limited. Whoever, wanted to vote against the CPI (M) had already voted against it in the 2011 elections and hardly anyone else would have joined those ranks in Piravom constituency after Selvaraj’s resignation.

However, it might be true that Opposition Leader V. S. Achuthanandan’s as a vote-puller has further diminished with the mounting allegations against him and his son and increasing realisation that he was not being sincere to the causes he expounded.

The results should be a lesson to Mr. Achuthanandan and the CPI (M). People demand honesty and sincerity and the Chief Minister is saying that the bypoll victory is the reward for his sincerity to people. But the cunning politician that he is, can he be really sincere? May be in responding to representations from people. He doesn’t have to live up to any other ideal than this as he expounds none.

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Giving Mullaperiyar waters on a platter Wednesday, Dec 21 2011 

Dams are not for ever: 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala

Kerala is offering waters of Mullaperiyar to Tamil Nadu in a platter. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has reportedly promised Tamil Nadu Minister Paneer Selvam that Kerala Assembly would pass a resolution to grant waters of Mullaperiyar to Tamil Nadu. Kerala has already assured the Centre that it would provide water without even the pre-condition that Tamil Nadu should reduce the water level of existing dam to 120 feet for the safety of people of Kerala.

Since Tamil Nadu is not agreeing to construction of a new dam below the existing Mullaperiyar dam for whatever reasons, it is high time that Kerala abandoned the proposal. Instead, it should insist on gradual lowering of the water level to ensure safety, taking Tamil Nadu’s refusal to accept the new dam proposal as an opportunity. Alternate intake structures could be considered at lower levels, if feasible, to allow Tamil Nadu to draw water at current levels or reduced levels. Eventually, Mullaperiyar dam should be reduced to a diversion structure.  It might be possible for Tamil Nadu to draw water for an indefinite period though that may not be at the current levels.  The engineering aspects of this should be studied in detail and alternative to new dam should be drawn up.

There is no reason why Kerala should continue to accept a ‘primitive’ agreement signed between erstwhile princely State of Travancore and the British. It was, in fact, an annexation of territory of Travancore as the agreement provides for diversion of all waters falling on 8000 acres. It was an international agreement. And it is at odds with current international law that recognises lower riparian rights. It ignored the ecological impact of total diversion of a river into another basin (Vaigai basin of Tamil Nadu) as those who signed the agreement were never aware of such an impact. The government should realise the eventual need to decommission several dams in Idukki district towards eco-restoration.

Hundreds of dams have been decommissioned in the United States and are not being rebuilt. Similar trend is happening in Europe also. Kerala need not try to buck the trend by building a new dam to replace the 116-year-old dam.

Related linkAny dam has a life

Save Mullaperiyar, Save Kerala

Abject Failure of Kerala government on Mullaperiyar front Saturday, Dec 3 2011 

Vandiperiyar

Vandiperiyar town of Idukki district which will be washed away in case of failure of Mullaperiyar dam

The developments on the Mullaperiyar front points to abject failure of the State and Central governments. The Central government could not even make the Tamil Nadu officials to come to Delhi.  Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa refused even to take the telephone call from Prime Minister. This is the cost the Centre government is paying for yielding to political blackmail of Tamil Nadu politicians in the past. Now that Karunanidhi is antagonised over CBI enquires against his party leaders, the Centre could not afford to say a hard word against Jayalalithaa.

The Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s Delhi mission was a total failure against this background despite the supported reportedly given by Defence Minister A. K. Antony. Though he put a brave face, he dispatched Water Resources Minister P. J. Joseph to examine the possibility of approaching the Supreme Court.  Mr. Joseph had earlier returned after giving an undertaking to the Centre that Kerala would ask for any share in waters of Mullaperiyar. (Tamil Nadu thus got an undertaking without even moving a finger. Kerala should have assured water to Tamil Nadu only after dragging it to the negotiation table.)

This was a case that Kerala could have won in the first instance in the Supreme Court. All it needed to have done was to invoke the precautionary principle and present the risk profile with support of studies and dam break analysis and inundation studies.  However, despite it getting more than a decade, the government has only ordered the study.

The consequence was that the Supreme Court in the first case concurred with the argument of Tamil Nadu that water from Mullaperiyar would be contained in the Idukki reservoir in case of failure of Mullaperiyar dam. This argument was not only technically incorrect, but also ignored the impact on the populated area between Mullaperiyar and Idukki. About 75000 people live there, but Kerala had failed to point that out to the Court.

The Government is against failing to state facts before the High Court. The Advocate General made amateurish observations on water level, safety and media coverage when the whole State is seized of the matter. It points to lack of coordination and ineptness of various departments. The Advocate General was making remarks on the basis of shallow observations by the Revenue and Disaster Management Department.  There was neither a collective approach nor organised presentation of case. This is why the Advocate General was refusing to heed the demand for his resignation. He did not divert much from what the government had presented before him.  This would be confirmed if the government fails to oust him. No client will keep a counsel if he had made observations against his brief.

A dam failure will not follow the mathematics of TN, the Advocate General or the Supreme Court. It will be catastrophic.  The dam completely gives way; it will be a column of water, more than 100 feet high, that will be flowing down.  Even when it reached Idukki reservoir, it will be more than 15 feet high. The torrent will bring down a lot of rocks and earth and will silt up the reservoir, raising the possibility of overtopping of the dam even when the water level of Idukki reservoir is low. Moreover floating trunks of trees and debris would hit the dams of Idukki with possibility of damage to the dram structure and spillways. So, Idukki would be at risk whatever the time of collapse of Mullaperiyar dam be.  If it is in summer, the scale of disaster would be lower, but it would make no difference for those on the path of the flow of water.

The authorities are actually misleading people by talking of plans to evacuate 450 families. This is a plan for evacuating people in case of an overflow of up to six feet through the spillways of Mullaperiyar dam. If one is to take precautions against a dam failure, about 2500 people would have to be evacuated from Vallakkadavu alone. The magnitude of disaster management in case of dam failure is something beyond the capabilities of the State government.

Related links:

Mullaperiyar– in search of truth (about precautionary principle)

Dam Safety: Mullaperiyar and its implications

Oommen Chandy in a bad patch Sunday, Feb 13 2011 

Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy is going through a bad patch. His march to save Kerala from the clutches of the LDF (misrule) had started with all the hopes of returning to power. However, at the end, he is seen protecting Muslim League leader Mr. P. K. Kunhalikutty against whom allegations have resurfaced. He has also taken the baggage of Kerala Congress leader Mr. R. Balakrishna Pillai, who had been sentenced to one year’s rigorous imprisonment, on his self.

At the same time, Chief Minister Mr. V. S. Achuthandnan has emerged as one who has at least done something to punish the corrupt and hold those who commit crimes against women accountable. After abysmal rule for five years, he is at least demonstrating that he could be the Opposition Leader for another term!

On the other hand, Congress is gearing up to pay a high price by supporting Mr. Pilliai and Mr. Kunhalikutty. Already, Congress Member of Parliament K. Sudhakaran has joined the bandwagon to abuse V. S. Achuthanandan for preferring the petition against Mr. Pillai and the Supreme Court for handing down the verdict.

This is when the Congress government at the Centre is facing strictures from the Supreme Court in matters like the 2G spectrum allotment. People are sure to see through the game plan to discredit the Court. (Corruption has indeed the entered the Supreme Court and nation is pivoted on the debate in that regard. And the Congress is trying to take advantage of the situation.)

In the case of Mr.Kunhalikutty, a sizable section of the League leaders do not want him. League would do better without Mr. Kunhalikutty than with him in the next elections. However, the Congress is providing him the support to hang on.

All these only reinforces the worsening image o f Congress at the national level in the eyes of voters of Kerala as the State goes to polls in two moths time.

Pinarayi has every right to defend himself Wednesday, Sep 9 2009 

vishnuCPI (M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan has every right to obtain information from government that would help him to defend himself in the SNC Lavalin case. The Opposition argument against that it devoid of merit.

If he has obtained information relating to the Cabinet decision on the SNC Lavalin case from the Government under the Right to Information Act and presented it before the Supreme Court, his action is perfectly in order. However, P. C. George, MLA, has raised the question whether the information in question was actually released under provisions of the Act. This is a valid question and is to be looked into.

The Opposition leader Oommen Chandy, on the other hand, maintains that the release of the information under the Act on Cabinet decisions sets a bad precedent as not only Mr. Vijayan but also known offenders like Om Prakash would be able to get information beneficial to them in criminal cases.

In an open government, every citizen has right to get information and the rights of Mr. Vijayan is not different from that of Om Prakash. Moreover, it is the duty of the government not only to ensure successful prosecution of offenders but also to ensure fair trial. If government suppresses information, that would hamper fair trial.  It is the responsibility of the State to ensure fair trial in every case.

However, the problem is that governments are not only unwilling to ensure successful prosecution of known offenders with political connections but also aid them in various ways. The accompanying picture points to open political patronage to known offenders.

Related reports:

Vishnu muder: three more held
Charges filed in Vishnu murder case
Murder of CPM Gunda-Move to blame RSS

Ommen Chandy’s disappointment or Smart City Wednesday, Oct 8 2008 

Kerala Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy

Kerala Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy

Opposition Leader of Kerala Oommen Chandy has once again raised allegations directed against Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan that undue concessions had been made for the Smart City Project, jointly promoted by Dubai based TECOM Investments and the Government. This time, he is saying that the Smart City had been given higher concessions than those provided for in the SEZ policy adopted by the Government last week.

Mr. Chandy’s disappointment is understandable. He could not ink his dream project in 2006 because of protests from Achuthanandan who was then the Opposition Leader. When Mr. Achuthanandan became the Chief Minister, he could strike a deal which was far better than one contemplated by the Chandy Government.

Just to cite a few examples, the Government did not have to part with the Infopark or guarantee exclusivity to the Smart City in development IT infrastructure in Ernakulam district. Higher share was also specified for the Government in the company implementing the project.

Ever since Mr. Achuthanandan signed the deal, Mr. Chandy was trying to belittle Mr. Achuthanandan’s achievement by repeatedly making allegations. Thus he is hoping that he could divert public attention from his failure to strike a better deal and allegations that the UDF leaders were bargaining for kickbacks.

This is not to say that Mr. Achuthanandan had not conceded any benefits to the Smart City project. In fact, the promoters stand to benefit in terms of land prices and other concessions. However, one cannot say for sure that Mr. Achuthanandan could have struck a better deal under the given circumstances.

Some people in the Government opposed to Mr. Achuthanandan is now trying to create confusion that the terms of the new SEZ policy applied to Smart City. Even if the policy statement says so, it cannot override the terms of the agreement signed by the Government. Otherwise, the Government has to do so through legislation. Such a retrospective application of legislation to nullify benefits promised to entrepreneurs, that too within a short period, will send the wrong signals to investors.

There is indeed the need to bring down concessions being offered to the industry under the Information Technology policy. The concessions are often higher than what the State would get in return, especially when tax breaks are offered in addition to subsidy. So, the SEZ policy is a step in the right direction.

Smart City Project area

Smart City Project area

Related:

Government’s arguements

Oomen Chandy’s arguments