Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mamata sticks to her Teesta guns

Tells Indian foreign secy 'no talk of sharing till waters measured'

Paschimbanga Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has told Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai that her state's stance on Teesta water sharing with Bangladesh cannot be confirmed until a commission submits a report on the availability of water, sources said. 

The sources said Mamata, during her meeting with Mathai in Kolkata Saturday, made it clear that the agricultural interest and availability of drinking water in the northern part of Paschimbanga state was of paramount importance to her government. 

She said she could not take a view on the issue of water sharing before the commission headed by hydrologist Kalyan Rudra submitted its report on the quantum of water available in the river round the year, particularly during the dry season, sources said.

Mamata also told the foreign secretary that Rudra needed time to prepare the report and had sought data from the Indian central government on the availability of water in the Teesta. She also said the central government had been making delays in delivering the data to the expert.

Rudra, who was earlier to have submitted his report in December last year, has sought extension of time and it appears unlikely that he will do it before April.

When asked when he was likely to submit his report, Rudra told reporters a few days ago, “How can I say this? I need to study the quantum of water available in the Teesta during the dry season and I need data from the central government.”

The proposed Teesta water-sharing deal could not be signed between Bangladesh and India during the Indian Prime Minister's visit to Dhaka in September last year because of Mamata's last-minute objection and her withdrawal from the prime minister's entourage.

Mamata had objected to the proposed treaty, saying a 50-50 sharing of Teesta water between Bangladesh and India would be detrimental to the interest of the northern part of Paschimbanga. She had also alleged that she had not been consulted before the Indian government finalised the deal with Bangladesh. 

The issue of the exchange of adversely-held enclaves between Bangladesh and Paschimbanga also came up for discussion between Mamata and Mathai.

Mamata-led Trinamool Congress sources said it might not be altogether averse to implementation of the India-Bangladesh agreement on exchange of enclaves and land boundary inked during Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka.

However, what is a matter of concern for Trinamool Congress is the issue of an exchange of population in the enclaves since Mamata's government would need the funds to resettle the people who choose to stay in Paschimbanga.

Under the India-Bangladesh agreement on exchange of enclaves, the residents of the enclaves on both sides of the border have been given the option to decide their choice of citizenship and place of stay.

The agreement on land boundary and exchange of enclaves has to be ratified by the Indian cabinet, where Mamata's party representative is there, and parliament where Trinamool Congress holds the key to the Manmohan Singh government's majority. 

Mamata recently sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying the breakdown of the two sluice gates of the Farakka barrage near the border with Bangladesh had been concealed from her government. She said as a result, excess water was flowing into Bangladesh via the Padma.