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Minister 'Soz' babu the door

Minister 'Soz' babu the door

Author: Lakshmi Iyer
Publication: Mumbai Mirror
Date: July 20, 2006

Introduction: Damned if you do: Union water resources secretary J Harinarayan loses his job for allowing Narmada dam height to rise. He refused to follow Soz's bleeding heart

Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz may have received a resounding slap in the face from the VK Shunglu Committee--the special panel appointed by the Prime Minister to examine the status of rehabilitation of projected affected people (PAP) of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Madhya Pradesh.

In a stark contradiction to his own Group of Ministers' report in April which he had called for one year moratorium in the increase height of dam till such time rehab issues of PAP is amicably settled, the three-member expert panel that took help of NSSO gave a clean chit to the state government in Bhopal.

Nonetheless, Soz got a shot in the arm this month as he has managed to get "rid" of his very independent minded Union Water Resources Secretary, J Harinarayan.

Harinarayan is returning to his home state Andhra as chief secretary next month. Soz was campaigning for his ouster as he held him responsible for the recent bout of Narmada crisis. For as head of the Narmada Control Authority, which he had occupied as Union water resources secretary, it was Harinarayan who allowed the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to be raised from 110.64 metres to 121.92 metres at the March 8 meeting of the NCA.

When Soz asked him why he did not take his permission, Harinarayan told him that under the 1979 Narmada Tribunal Award he was not bound to take his consent," a Congress leader from Kashmir said.

The tension between the minister and the secretary came into the open when Soz wrote out the Group of Ministers report based on the visit to rehabilitation sites in Madhya Pradesh, keeping Harinarayan out of the process. "It was kept as a secret from his own secretary till it was submitted to the PM," said a ministry official.

Harinarayan denied that he was moving back to Andhra because of any problems with his minister Soz or the Narmada Dam controversy. He said Andhra chief minister YS Rajashekhar Reddy had written to Government of India way back in February requisitioning for him as the incumbent chief secretary was to retire in April.

"I am the third senior most officer in my batch and I was collector in chief minister Reddy's home district of Cuddapah. So I was the natural choice. But then Delhi did not want to relieve me as I was in midst of negotiations on the Indo-Pak Baglihar dam. Delhi wanted to keep me here till July when all hearing on the matter was expected to be over. But now the World Bank appointed neutral expert says he would have two more hearings in November," said Harinarayan. Delhi wants Narayan to continue handling the issue even after he moves to Hyderabad as he has handled it for over an year.

In reply to a question on whether he had defied Soz on the Narmada issue, Narayan denied he made any attempt to overrule him.

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