Jyothy Sreedhar

The Road to Mullaperiyar- Take Diversion!

There had never been such a powerful united move as the Mullaperiyar dam issue after the mighty freedom struggle. It was the rarest of the rare scenes in Kerala history watching Kerala as a whole, with the powerful voices clubbed together for a great cause. Some people got busy with their online writings about what they feel, think and what they should speak out. Some others were seen coming down to public from the official sect to make the commoners aware of the real core of what all are crying for. Another sect with public figures became more or less silent fearing about the after effects, but their silence supported the state's single voice. And we spoke for humans... our fellow beings... the lakhs of those lives that were endangered with the risk caused by the dam. That has made this struggle all the more a mighty one! Feel proud that you too are one in the list of those humane persons who dared to register your doubts, your own findings and your official complaints to CM's and PM's help cell. This is a mark in each of your lives, speaking at least once for others with all true concern. That is how we all started out, from just peeping into the issue, then responding, and then making our own marks getting straightly included in the group. Till now, our single little initiatives had moved up and created some mark in the needed columns. We are the commoners who yell for a proper result for what we had once started out and had taken all pain to maintain the strength of our voices. But let us think all over again from the very start, step by step, with a recollection of what we had spoken out and what we had dropped down in the course of events. We like to remind you about many things we unconsciously left out with every new purposefully created event. A look back and then a slow drive on the road to Mullaperiyar is all about taking diversions. Here we go! The present public concern for the issue arose one year after the blog write-up by Niraksharan on 28th November, 2009 (http://niraksharan.blogspot.com/2009/11/blog-post_28.html)- the link that was shared by a great many in number. Along with that occured a widespread share of the award winning documentary link directed by the very same Mr. Sohan Roy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gS0PwCmjIt4) who made the recent sensitive movie, ‘Dam 999’. Some people argued that the high boost up of the issue was just the director's play for promoting his movie and some continued to believe so. Others went in for more search and research and found out that the real truth is disastrous. A few in them went out with publicizing their judgements and findings, with a good motive to make people aware about what the dam is pathetically going through. The mission was started thus in the social networking sites, particularly facebook and twitter. Those people who stood out from not getting included were seen enquiring about the issue and then getting active in the movement as days passed by. The united voice of the public shook the officials in the government. Thus, our casual voice became registered officially. The media too took it up with due importance. Each earthquake that happened there began to scare even the nights of the Keralites living far from the location. The issues, the fears and the consequent questions sprouted up. Believing that the movie is the only reason for this, Tamil Nadu banned ‘Dam 999’ in the state. As said earlier, many people began to study the issue in deep, reading the links that had come to them. Each reader began to get some doubts regarding this or that, they read about. The dam’s safety itself became a question and a debate between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. So before starting out, we need to know what is wrong with the dam and how these said lakhs of lives are endangered. Let us get into some facts related to the dam’s construction logics. You don’t need to be a scholar to understand the logic. The masonry dams are prone to age factor a lot and they are less stable than the concrete counterparts. Tamil Nadu has been demanding to ban the construction of the new dam with their providing baseless intuitions that masonry dams had never failed anywhere in the world. The analysis done by the Australian university, University of New South Wales titled ‘Analysis of Concrete and Masonry Dam Incidents’ (http://unsworks.unsw.edu.au/fapi/datastream/unsworks:555/SOURCE03) clearly mentions the failures throughout the world not only with masonry gravity dams alone. The report shows clearly that the dams which were commissioned between 1850 and 1899 were the ones which burst due to the failure. ‘Even if the dam bursts the Idukki dam can retain the water from this flood’ is the statement put forwarded by the Tamil Nadu government. Since Mullaperiyar belongs to the Masonry gravity dam category, around 21 different dams had failed all over the world with two of them in India itself – Khadakwasla and Tigra dams. The details are available in the following link- http://nptel.iitm.ac.in/courses/IIT-MADRAS/Hydraulics/pdfs/Unit41/41_2.pdf. See the next link for some rare historical pictures of dam failures throughout the world including the Khadakwasla dam- http://www.scribd.com/doc/47499976/History-of-dams-failures .With regards to the Mullaperiyar dam, the grave concern is that 30 tonnes of lime surkhi is being leached every year. So if you calculate the 68 years from 1896-1965 around 2070 tonnes of lime surkhi has been leached out of the dam making it vulnerable of toppling at any moment if a heavy gush of torrential rain happens in the region. The strengthening procedures which the TN government adopted during 1932-35 and 1961-65, the grouting was done with cement. But the saddest part is only 543 tonnes of cement were used for the astronomical amount of the lime surkhi bleached every year and only to the 1/4th of the total bleached lime surkhi from 1896. It may be recalled that IIT Roorkee team had identified 22 major faults in a radius of 300 kms around Mullaperiyar dam site. Out of this, the Thekkady- Kodaivannalur fault was identified as the one which will create most devastating effect on the Mullaperiyar dam site, which is capable of producing an earthquake of 6.5 Magnitude in Ritcher scale within a close distance of 16 km from the dam site. The intensities of maximum possible earthquakes due to the 22 faults and their effect on Mullaperiyar dam site were studied in detail. IIT Roorkee in their report on Seismic Hazard Assessment recommended that the existing Mullaperiyar dam has to be checked for its safety since eventuality of its failure may result in huge economic and human loss. The IIT Roorkee report, 2008 can be read in full in this following link- http://www.scribd.com/doc/75210587/IITR-PART01. From here let us start digging to the past. The first main doubt was about the validity of that 999 years agreement which according to Wikipedia is as follows:

"On 29 October 1886, a lease indenture for 999 years was made between the Maharaja of Travancore, Visakham Thirunal Rama Varma and the British Secretary of State for India for Periyar Irrigation Works. The lease agreement was signed by Dewan of Travancore V Ram Iyengar and State Secretary of Madras State J C Hannington. This lease was made after 24 years negotiation between the Maharaja and the British. The lease indenture granted full right, power and liberty to the Secretary of State for India to construct make and carry out on the leased land and to use exclusively when constructed, made and carried out, all such irrigation works and other works ancillary thereto to. The agreement gave 8000 acres of land for the reservoir and another 100 acres to construct the dam. The tax for each acre was 5 per year. The lease provided the British the rights over "all the waters" of the Mullaperiyar and its catchment basin, for an annual rent of 40,000. In 1947, after Indian Independence, the lease agreement expired. After several         failed attempts to renew the agreement in 1958, 1960, and 1969, the agreement was renewed in 1970 when C Achutha Menon was Kerala Chief Minister. According to the renewed agreement, the tax per acre was increased to 30, and for the electricity generated in Lower Camp using Mullaperiyar water, the charge was 12 per kiloWatt per hour. Tamil Nadu uses the water and the land, and the Tamil Nadu government has been paying to the Kerala government for the past 50 years  2.5 lakhs as tax per year for the whole land and 7.5 lakhs per year as surcharge for the total amount of electricity generated. The validity of this agreement is under dispute between the States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The matter is currently pending before a Division Bench of the Supreme Court."
With more reading about this point, people began to raise some doubts based on the agreement. On attaining independence, the agreements between the princely states were presented and renewed/cancelled officially, where the Mullaperiyar deed did not even appear. Hence, the lease agreement stands expired then and there. Is there, any validity for that agreement for atleast a day more? (1) How can, then, an expired agreement get renewed decades later, be it for any cause? (2) If it was a new agreement, it would have proved its credibility. This deed fails there. Concerning the disputes and the consequent hearing sessions by the Supreme Court, there is a point that goes against the power of the court to get involved in the issue. As per the Article 131 of the Indian Constitution,
"Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute (a) between the Government of India and one or more States; or (b) between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other       States on the other; or (c) between two or more States, if and in so far as the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends:            Provided that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, engagements, and or other similar instrument which, having been entered into or executed before the commencement of this Constitution, continues in operation after such commencement, or which provides that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to such a dispute"
The latter part prohibits Supreme Court to hear the case of this 'pre-constitutional' agreement. Then how did the case get presented in the Supreme Court and how did the court begin its hearing over the dispute? (3) As per the agreement, Tamil Nadu was permitted to use the dam water only for irrigation purposes. They use it now for generation of electricity as well. So, are they or are they not following the terms of the original agreement? (4) Even when the validity of the real agreement and its renewed form is questioned, how can Tamil Nadu stick on to the original and the renewed one alternatively in different contexts? (5) There is a special legal provision for a single party to cancel an agreement under emergency situation, provided the agreement is made between two parties in which the former single party is included. This agreement being between two parties- Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and now that Kerala is under an emergency situation, why don't Kerala most legally cancel the agreement as such? (6) These six questions revolve round the credibility and the scope of that agreement- the very reason of this interstate dispute that gets worsened by time. These questions are still not clarified with proofs and no answer was provided till date that made us convinced. The next step was when there happened a political intervention. Apart from the hunger strikes, the human chain, the human wall, the riots and single attacks etc., there were some interesting press meets and public speech by the politicians. Mr. P. J. Joseph was almost the first to come up and stand for the emotional fear of people and he continues to do that. K. M. Mani came up and shouted with his powerful statement as "we will build a dam in Kerala's land, with Kerala's money. Who can question us? Those who dare to come up against this will be totally rejected." The statement happened some weeks before, and these 'daring' words remained as mere words. What happened then and what blocked him from doing it?(7) If his statement was right, then why do the other politicians still beg Tamil Nadu for support, others go for cases, and research about legal win over Tamil Nadu? (8) According to Mani, Tamil Nadu is not even an element and our decision can be final! But still the show goes on making us more confused! Now we wish to invite your attention to Kerala's Advocate General Dhandapani. While the whole Kerala was looking forward for a positive verdict, when our high court was heavily supporting Kerala's points, the AG stated there that if ever the dam errupts, the four dams below it will be able to contain the whole water and prevent disastrous consequences and that only the region between Mullaperiyar and Idukki is endangered and it is only this particular region that needs to get evacuated if the danger gets near. Further, he said that the rest of the news reports telling that the four districts will be under water is only something that the media has created as part of a fear psychosis. Last day KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala responded to the AG’s statement like, if the Mullaperiyar dam errupts, Idukki can contain the whole water, only if the whole water in the Idukki dams is drained out by excessive production of electricity, under such a severe emergency, but it is almost impossible. It is then than the high court questioned AG about the time taken by the water to reach Idukki from Mullaperiyar. Ramesh Chennithala said that this particular view that he stated was what got included in the affidavit, which was not properly taken up by the AG. This very well matches what Tamil Nadu used to raise against Kerala's arguments. Now about what our logics say about his statement. With respect to the basic physics one can imagine that the dam burst causes debris to also flow towards Idukki dam. So as per the logic dams are designed to withstand the water alone. Not debris. So if at all that happens the Idukki dam wont withstand the force with which the water gushing in after toppling Kulamavu and Cheruthoni dams along with washing away 75000 people and their homes. It’s the sheer ignorance for the sake of the argument. Our AG has stated some provoking thoughts during the hearing by backstabbing on the trust and the goodwill of the people of Kerala, instigating hatred between the borders. Once the news about AG's court explanation came out, we saw our CM objecting to the whole statement, we saw him calling up AG then and there and later told in front of camera that "AG will step back from his statement." We saw our Revenue Minister Thiruvanchiyoor Radhakrishnan coming for a resultant press meet with the affidavit in his hands telling that the particular debative sentence was not included in the note and that it was AG's personal opinion that is against the government's stand. Then we all expected that the next high court session will be another twist back with AG contradicting his word. But what happened was the court’s approval to AG’s explanation. The same day later, there was this same CM and Revenue Minister who were trying to escape from the media questions, telling alternately that it was/was not government's stand. Our CM then gave the final word "The AG issue is a dead topic and needs to be closed." Apart from the best actors and dialogues, it was a stage and audience of fools. Now we wish to bring in the same question to which a clear answer- an yes/no answer is sought- The particular statement of AG that the Idukki dams can contain the whole water of Mullaperiyar and that only the region from Mullaperiyar to Idukki is endangered- was it or was it not government's stand?(9) Wait!!! I repeat, we want just an yes or a no! No further explanations welcomed. Why the questions should be answered? We, the common people cannot be sealed with a class teacher style of "Shhhh...Silence". The Wikipedia says something like this:
"The Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI) is an Act of the Parliament of India "to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens." The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir has its own act called Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to pro-actively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally. This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 13 October 2005. ... ...The Act empowers every citizen to:
  • Ask any questions from the Government or seek any information.
  • Take copies of any governmental documents.
  • Inspect any governmental documents.
  • Inspect any Governmental works.
  • Take samples of materials of any Governmental work."
So, it is our right to question and ask for information. But, by doing it, will any of these questions get answered with clear evidences that can convince us? Now let us come to the funniest part that is the most recent as well. Tamil Nadu wants our Idukki to be attached to their map. Well, no question for that, but just a smile, that contains more meaning than a laugh. Tamil Nadu had helped Kerala politicians with much diversions of the topic. Their first argument that ‘it was all a political play behind creating a fear psychosis and that the dam is safe’ was one thing that led us to a proper in depth reading of the matter, we acknowledge that. The next was a letter-writing session between both the CMs, and also between the CMs and the PM. That went on in regular intervals. Some attacks happened against Keralites and Tamilans across the boundaries. The concentration was more or less diverted to ensuring safety for people. Then, we heard the Tamil Nadu CM speaking about a bribe list that can kick the real face off from some of Kerala politicians. Diversion again! The next was Tamil Nadu rejecting their presence in any discussion about the matter and Kerala pathetically begging for their presence. In the meanwhile the Tamil Nadu CM even went to the extent of publishing her appeal to all the Keralites speaking against the politicians and ensuring that the dam is safe and the note came up in all the main national newspapers. The MPs' protests, the hunger strikes and the human wall were imitated from Kerala as such which happened last days in different areas of Tamil Nadu. It sounds that the political parties and their leaders like ‘Psycho’ in the neighbouring state, instead of working out an answer to the annoyed issue, are engaged in a contest to show off their devotion to the cause and speak whatever they felt without a thought of its impact. They can persuade the thoughts and actions of their followers and them in their turn engage in senseless aggression. This process is almost as much dodgy and distressing as the tragedy that can befall out of the failure of the Dam. Tens of thousands of Keralites live in Tamil Nadu and as many Tamilians live in Kerala too and the bonhomie between the two peoples must continue and should not be allowed to drown in the Mullaperiyar waters. The sensitively charged people lose reason and sense and politicians should not fashion them with high voltage agitations or speeches. Any way speeches or human chains are not going to solve the issue but help only to vitiate the mood. “A diplomat who says ‘yes’ means ‘maybe’, a diplomat who says ‘maybe’ means ‘no’, and a diplomat who says ‘no’ is no diplomat.” Here we do have a picture perfect diplomat in the form of the Apex Body, who had to maintain a neutral, but an authoritative status quo considering the seriousness and sensitiveness prevailing in the issue. Nor ‘You’ or ‘I’ win – that was the stand of the Apex body of the nation, in its recent hearing of the dam issue and came down heavily on Tamil Nadu and Kerala governments criticising them saying that instead of dousing the fire they were adding fuel to the Mullaperiyar Dam row. The stand was no different when it refused to get involved in yet another spar between Kerala and Tamil Nadu over the dam. The body even went a step ahead and rebuked both the states for fuelling public fear and anxiety. It also asked Tamil Nadu to ensure that the water level in the dam does not exceed 136 feet but declined to entertain our plea for reducing the level to 120 feet. Damning the vocal salvos being exchanged between leaders of Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the dam, the Supreme Court also said that the political battle over increasing the height of the reservoir could hamper the safety of the people in the region. “Safety of the people is paramount, whether in Tamil Nadu or Kerala... this can’t be compromised.” Just two days later Tamil Nadu has raised the pitch on the Mullaperiyar Dam row with the State Assembly passing a resolution unanimously demanding that Kerala should take immediate steps to increase water levels in the dam to 142 feet. What is the logic behind such a resolution immediately after the Supreme Court’s warning that the water level in the dam should not exceed 136 feet? (10) The Prime Minister and our Chief Minister stood adamantly on the statement that 'Tamil Nadu should not be hurt'. It is better to release a statement like 'The Mullaperiyar Dam should not errupt' or like 'The Keralites should not be dead' or get a Supreme Court order blocking earthquakes in Mullaperiyar region. No, I am not joking. The issue is going in such a 'commercial, entertainer' way. We repeated that while Kerala fights with logic, Tamil Nadu plays with emotion. But these unanswered questions, contradictory statements by the concerned officials etc. make us doubt whether we are getting logically fooled and failed. Tamil Nadu seems to win it emotionally- playing with emotions of people. Politicians are politicians, people are just people, be it in Tamil Nadu or in Kerala. Somewhere the main need of getting a dam gets diverted to many petty sub issues even too down as Tamil Nadu's claim for Idukki. Now where do we stand? Has some progress happened in the case? We remind you, the case is about getting a new dam, not any other recent trendy ones. While concluding we shouldn’t forget to mention those, whose life and lifeblood got paralyzed by the standstill across the border of the two states. The violence erupted over the Mullaperiyar issue in border areas has sent an unwelcome message to the people in the region. Predominantly the people in this tensed area are heavily relying on agriculture and tourism revenues and their life has come into a pause, thanks to protests. It would be great if the concerned authorities and political wings give some considerations to them and not just adopt this - “When lives are in peril, livelihood can afford to wait” – a blind approach. The Road to Mullaperiyar- Take Diversion! You have a lot many dead-end sub roads to opt for, now and always! Researched and written by: ‘Mullaperiyar HAJ’ (Harish, Arun, Jyothy)