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Mullaperiyar dam row: Jayalalithaa opposes NDMA move

As tension gripped areas bordering Kerala in Theni district following a road blockade protest by thousands of villagers, Jayalalithaa shot off yet another to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the dam issue.

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Ratcheting up pressure on the Centre over the Mullaperiyar dam issue, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa today slammed it for forming an expert team to draw up a contingency response plan for the reservoir, saying it was succumbing to the "subterfuge" of Kerala government.

As tension gripped areas bordering Kerala in Theni district following a road blockade protest by thousands of villagers, Jayalalithaa shot off yet another to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the dam issue.

She took strong exception to the National Disaster Management Authority headed by him forming the experts team to draw up a contingency response plan including "inundation and submergence models" in the event of possible scenarios like earthquakes and floods.

"This is nothing but succumbing to the subterfuge of the government of Kerala and to present a fait accompli to the Supreme Court and the Empowered Committee constituted by it," she said demanding withdrawal of NDMA's office memorandum.

Jayalalithaa's fourth letter to the Prime Minister in as many weeks on the dam issue comes amid an unending war of words between leaders of both states over Kerala's insistence on demolishing the 116-year old dam citing safety concerns which, Tamil Nadu strongly opposes.

In Theni district, the epicentre of protests since last month against Kerala's stand on the dam issue, police arrested MDMK leader Vaiko when he was on his way to Lower Camp on Kerala border to lead his party workers on a road blockade stir demanding protection to the dam.

Vaiko was arrested for defying prohibitory orders but about 10,000 people went ahead with the agitation and blocked the road at Gudalur where five persons were injured in a clash between police and the agitators.

Police said they made a lathicharge when the agitators threw stones at them during the clash which broke out after a tractor 'accidentally' hit the vehicle of IG of Police Rajesh Dass who was on his way to hold talks with the protesters.

Five media vehicles and some belonging to the police were damaged in the clash, police said adding the situation was under control though tense. Additional reinforcements have been rushed to the trouble spot.

In Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy dismissed as 'false propoganda' that Ayyappa pilgrims from Tamil Nadu were 'facing problems' and asserted that the people of the state as a whole were keen that no hardship should be caused to the devotees undertaking the annual pilgrimage to the hill shrine in Sabarimala.

There was no need for any apprehension for Sabarimala pilgrims from Tamil Nadu about their safety in view of the Mullaperiyar dam issue, he said.

"Not only police and the state agencies have taken all necessary steps for the safety of the pilgrims but the people themselves are wholeheartedly helping the devotees", he said in an interaction with editors and representatives of media.

It was rather unfortunate that some quarters were indulging in false propaganda that the pilgrims were facing probelms. This had no basis whatsoever, he said.

Chandy said Kerala Government and the entire political specturm in the state had made it amply clear that the dam dispute should not become an issue that would strain the age-old relationship between the people of the two states.

It had also been ensured that people from Tamil Nadu living in the state would not face any problem on account of the tension over the issue, he said.

Stating that Kerala's persistent stand had been "water for Tamil Nadu and safety to Kerala," he said his government was prepared to fully co-operate with negotiations with Tamil Nadu to resolve the issue.

A Thrissur report said Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has suspended its bus services to Tamil Nadu from Thrissur and Guruvayur as the crew were reluctant to operate the services in view of alleged attacks on its vehciles over the dam issue.

Meanwhile, cases have been registered against three persons for attacking a bus from Tamil Nadu carrying pilgrims to Sabarimala on Dec 19 at Pudukkad near Thrissur, police said.

Eight persons were arrested yesterday for attacking vehicles from Tamil Nadu carrying pilgrims to Sabarimala at nearby Manappadi, Police said.

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