Mon, 18 Nov, 2019

Mhadei: Odds stacked against us

For the ambitious BJP high command, Karnataka which is a major state matters more than miniscule Goa

Story: Deepak | Laad | 08th November 2019, 02:32 Hrs

Deepak Laad

The Mhadei Bachao delegation returned from Delhi after a photo op with Union Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar. He off-handedly blamed the ‘l’affaire environmental approval’ on some lowly officer of his ministry and promised to ‘study’ the matter and inform in ten days. But the world had seen his tweet to MP friend from Karnataka announcing the ‘good news’ and the friend thanking him in return. His audacious lie demonstrates that he did not treat the delegation with the respect they deserved. Well, now we know what made-up hilarious explanation we are in for.   

The muscular Union Government has killed the spirit of federalism and acts authoritatively and unilaterally in state-related matters without consultations- quite unconcerned about the economic or environmental fallouts that follow in the slipstream of its decisions.   

Today the bossman Narendra Modi and his wingman Amit Shah take major decisions affecting the saffron states. The bossman himself selects the caretaker – chief minister – in those states once elections are over, who are then expected to play the role scripted by him. So it is not within the limited power of the CM of a miniscule state like Goa to question the Environment Ministry over environment clearance to Karnataka’s Kalsa-Bhandura project or ask them to review and rescind it or hold out threats of seeking legal recourse. He can resort to such actions only at the risk of digging his own political grave. For the ambitious BJP high command, Karnataka, a major state, matters more than miniscule Goa.   

Recently after grand obnoxious political shenanigans Karnataka BJP managed to wrestle power from JD(S)- Congress coalition in the state and now seem intent on consolidating its hold in coming elections. In such times the Mhadei water issue is a thorn in their side- more so in Hubballi Dharwad area.   

In 2017, the agitating farmers had pitched tents right in front of the BJP party office, lodged themselves there and cooked their food in the open. To placate them, a harassed, hapless Yeduyurappa managed to get ‘that letter’ extracted from Manohar Parrikar through the intervention of Javdekar and Amit Shah. In the Parivartan rally held in Hubballi in December 2017 he flourished that letter to the crowd in the presence of chief guest, Yogi Aditayanath and informed that acceding to his request Parrikar had promised drinking water from Mhadei. Yet the agitating farmers were not impressed and taunted him to show results, saying “don’t show us the letter, first bring the water and then talk.” 

Since then with his back to the wall, a desperate Yeduyurappa is bent on diverting the river water to deliver on his promise, as he sets up stage for the next election campaign. The Centre, instrumental in granting permission seems to be playing along. After Parrikar’s exit, in Sawant, the high command now finds a soft customer to handle.  

The Mhadei issue has never been an election issue in Goa, so never figured in election manifestos of political parties here. The average Goan is not alive to the clear and present danger of Karnataka’s actions and will wake up to the reality only when his taps go dry.   

This is outright a political issue, so environmentally-correct and sound arguments from laptop wielding experts have no roles to play here. Moreover the muscular union government is famously known to be allergic towards divergent views, opinions on any matter and has a committed battery of experts of its own to counter and negate contrarian views challenging its policies and decisions. So the chances of scoring against this government on any issue are nil.   

Javadekar is a politician first and then the Union minister. Strictly in that order and not the other way round. He is smart and knows of environment issues concerning the nation and the world, inside out. He glibly raises concern about global warming and rampant destruction of environment in world fora and beseeches the world community to commence remedial actions on a war footing. But back home he shows unconcern and indifference to the plight of AAP-ruled Delhiites breathing polluted air with quality index shooting above 900, the worst ever in any place on the earth’s surface. He wouldn’t bring the polluting neighboring states to the table to find solutions. So would the tales of future environment destruction and water shortages in Goa, post water diversion, move him to deliberate over the issue ?   

These days the Courts, like in the past, do not seem averse to interferences of the Executive in sub-judice matters. Sometimes though they show deep concern about environment destruction and sermon us on protecting it, at other times would be seen paradoxically upholding the government’s developmental agendas at the cost of environmental annihilation.   

Our local politicians are trying to make political hay out of the issue. Goa Forward’s Vijai Sardesai has decided to go forward and file a petition before the National Green Tribunal challenging the permission. Hope he wouldn’t move backwards in future on this, in case he is again invited to join the government, with withdrawal of this case as a precondition. Digambar Kamat almost sounded like Dharmendra of the 70s potboilers as he vowed to fight for Mhadei till his last breath. But if he too mends his fences and goes to breathe in BJP environment some day, what is the fate of his fight? 

There are small dramas of self-assured hubris of environment experts. One expert feeling ignored by the government, retired hurt, pledging to fight his own battle. If they fall apart and choose to fight their own battles separately, the war will be lost much before it even begins. Truth is, fearing a brutal Kannadiga backlash, the Union Environment Ministry wouldn’t dare revoke the permission.   

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