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Javadekar heckled at IFFI event over Kalasa-Banduri project

Govt committed to media freedom : Javadekar

Panaji, Nov 20 (IANS) Union I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar was heckled by sloganeering protestors during the inaugural session of the 50th edition of the IFFI, who accused him of betraying Goa’s interests in the ongoing tussle with Karnataka over sharing the water of the Mhadei river.

Three protestors heckled Javadekar during his speech on Wednesday, before they were forcefully ushered out of the inaugural function venue by security personnel.

The yet unidentified trio, who were shouting slogans demanding Goa’s rightful share of water from the Mhadei river, have been detained by the police.

Hundreds of party workers from the Congress, Goa Forward party and several other NGOs also staged a protest outside the IFFI campus in Panaji, against Prakash Javadekar’s refusal to withdraw the Ministry of Environment and Forest (whose charge he also holds) permission to Karnataka’s controversial Kalasa-Banduri project, aimed at diverting water from the Mhadei river.

Several party workers of the Congress, Goa Forward party, who were part of the protesting group, were arrested.

The protestors, who ringed the Inox multiplex complex in Panaji where the festivals’ films are scheduled to be screened, also held placards saying “Go Back Javadekar”.

The protests come at a time when prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC are in force in Goa.

“Javadekar has betrayed Goa and has caused great injustice to it people by giving a green nod to the Kalasa-Banduri project illegally,” Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar said.

On Tuesday, Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat had said that Javadekar should abstain from attending the inaugural session of the IFFI on Wednesday, because he had failed the people of Goa, vis a vis its water dispute with Karnataka.

Javadekar should avoid coming to the inaugural function of the 50th edition of the International Film Festival of India, because he had done huge injustice to the people of Goa by not withdrawing his Ministry’s letter allowing Karnataka to go ahead with the Kalasa-Banduri dam project, he had said.

On Tuesday, Javadekar turned down the Goa government’s request for withdrawal of the MoEF’s letter issued last month giving the Karnataka government the go-ahead for the Rs. 841 crore Kalasa-Banduri project, which aims to divert water from the Mhadei river to the water deficit basin of the Malaprabha river, ostensibly for drinking water purposes.

The Mhadei river originates in Karnataka and meets the Arabian Sea near Panaji in Goa, while briefly flowing through Maharashtra.

An inter-state water disputes tribunal, set up by the central government, after hearing the over two-decade-old Mhadei river water sharing dispute between Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra, in August 2018 allotted 13.42 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) (including 3.9 TMC for diversion into the depleted Malaprabha river basin) to Karnataka and 1.33 TMC to Maharashtra.