ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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SUGAR SCANDAL-All in Good Faith

strait-jacketing democratic processes, which it has been forced to initiate.
The group headed by Jayant Patil, member of the Planning Commission, was set up by the union water resources ministry as a consequence of the agitation of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and the ensuing talks. To begin with the group was meant to continue the discussions initiated towards the end of June 1993 "on all issues relating to the Sardar Sarovar Project". However, no lime frame was set for the report to be submitted and the NBA pointed out that the government had agreed to set up a group to review the project. Subsequently, the ministry amended the terms of reference, if they might be called that, and prescribed a time limit of three months. But when the group invited the three state governments and the NBA to present their views, the former declined - the Gujarat government categorically, the Rajasthan government on the plea that the project was an outcome of the Narmada Tribunal Award and could not be subjected to a review for 45 years, or until 2025. The Madhya Pradesh government declined the invitation on the plea that it was not an opinion group' but a "sovereign body representing all shades of opinion". Only the Maharashtra government "responded positively". In the meanwhile there was added confusion because the Narmada Abhiyan went to court seeking a stay on the activities of the group, on the plea that the Tribunal award did not allow for a review of the project until 2025. The union ministry responded by repeating what it had been saying in many forums, that the group was a "sounding board" or "a listening post for the government, as discussions are considered to be an important component of democratic process". But the secretary of the department of water resources emphatically pointed out it was not a review group. To make matters worse, the Gujarat High Court ruled that the report of the group should not be made public until after the court pronounced its decisions. This it could not do promptly, because the Gujarat government used every delaying tactic in the book. Given these constraints, it must have been quite a feat for the group to have produced the report which focuses on some basic issues.

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