Dam debate rages in Assam House

Session extended till Thursday

Members of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti in Dibrugarh on Tuesday protest against big dams. Picture by Eastern Projections

Guwahati, Nov 10 : The Opposition and the treasury benches clashed over the mega dam issue in the Assam Assembly today even though both agreed to discuss the issue in detail in the “greater” interest of the state.

Led by AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, the Opposition mounted a strong case to get the proceedings postponed beyond Question Hour to get its adjournment motion admitted.

When Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai reserved his ruling after hearing both sides, the Opposition staged a walkout.
The treasury benches, on the other hand, sought extension of the three-day session so that other businesses of the House could be held as scheduled.
Eventually, the business advisory committee, which met after the day’s proceedings, decided to extend the session by a day till November 11.
But the highlights of the day included the “homework” done by Mahanta, as reported in today’s edition of The Telegraph, to get the adjournment motion admitted, with the Opposition sticking together against efforts by the treasury benches to pin them down. It recalled how it was the AGP, AASU and the BJP which had demanded big dams and were now doing a volte face for political gains by washing their hands off the consequences.
Mahanta quoted from a review of academician Monirul Hussain’s book, Interrogating Development, wherein chief minister Tarun Gogoi had admitted that the flood caused by the Ranganadi hydel project was because of release of a large quantity of water.
“If there is a need for inquiry into the dam issue, so be it, but now we should discuss ways to find a solution in Assam’s interest,” he hit back when health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma called for a CBI probe to find out how the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation took over the construction of the Lower Subansiri dam from the Brahmaputra Board.
Mahanta was supported by AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary, former party president Brindaban Goswami, BJP president Ranjit Dutta, AIUDF’s Sirajuddin Ajmal and the Left’s Drupad Borgohain and Ananta Deka, who said the present government cannot allow the construction of dams just because the AGP had taken certain decisions during its stint in Dispur.
Independent member Bhubon Pegu, armed with maps and reports, said a catastrophe awaited the downstream area as the companies investing in the 168 dams coming up in Arunachal Pradesh had not conducted any study.
Parliamentary affairs minister Bharat Narah said Dispur would go by the House Committee decision and was even willing to foot the bill for redesigning of the Lower Subansiri dam, the bone of contention between the Opposition and Dispur.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, on his part, reiterated that he would oppose dams that went against Assam’s interests.
As the Assembly raged over the issue, a conference organised by the ex-general secretary forum of the Gauhati University Post-Graduate Students’ Union on Solution to Probable Problems in Assam from Dams in Arunachal Pradesh has recommended that construction of the dam be temporarily stopped till all reasonable doubts about its safety were removed.
The All Assam Students’ Union this evening also appealed to the Assembly to take strong steps regarding mega dams and updating of the National Register of Citizens.