Manmohan Steps In To Defuse Mullaperiyar Dispute


New Delhi: Stepping in to defuse tensions over the Mullaperiyar Dam issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday asked the union water resources ministry to hold a meeting of officials of contending Kerala and Tamil Nadu soon.
Manmohan Singh said this in a letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, in which he also said he looked forward to her cooperation on the Mullaperiyar issue. “I have accordingly advised the ministry of water resources to arrange an early meeting between the officials of the two sides to sort out outstanding issues and allay genuine concerns,” he said in his letter. 
The prime minister said he was sure a solution to the dispute over the 115-year-old dam in Kerala can be found through dialogue. “I am sure that, given goodwill on both sides, an amicable and mutually acceptable solution can be found through a process of dialogue and communication.”
The prime minister’s letter was in reply to Jayalalithaa’s letter of Nov 29 in which she urged him to advise Kerala to “maintain restraint” on the issue. Manmohan Singh’s letter comes a day before Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is scheduled to meet him with a request for permission to construct a new dam. “I have made a note of the points raised by you and also heard the issues raised by a delegation of ministers from the government of Kerala. I have pointed out to them that the matter is currently before the Supreme Court empowered committee,” he said in the letter, adding, “I believe that nothing should be said or done to create undue alarm among the people.”
The Mullaperiyar dam is located in Idukki district of Kerala, but its waters are supplied to Tamil Nadu for drinking and irrigation, as per a 999-year lease agreement between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj.
Panic has spread among people of four districts of Kerala around the dam following cracks in the 116-year-old masonry structure and repeated earthquakes in the region recently.
Kerala has demanded construction of a new dam, but Tamil Nadu says the old dam is safe. Tamil Nadu banned a film “Dam 999” saying the film’s Tamil version can ignite passions and cause a law and order situation in the state. 
The Mullaperiyar dispute has created political tensions recently, with the MPs belonging to the two states protesting either government in parliament even Thursday, and meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders in rival groups. 

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