Three protests, including one inside the IFFI’s inaugural venue where Union Minister Prakash Javadekar was present, were staged on Wednesday to denounce the Centre’s consent to Karnataka for a project on the river Mahadayi.
Javadekar, who holds Information & Broadcasting and environment portfolios, was the target of these demonstrations. The first protest by NGOs and others was held outside the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) venue near Panaji against the Centre’s move to ‘exempt’ the Karnataka government from obtaining environment clearance (EC) for the project.
The 50th edition of the IFFI was inaugurated by Javadekar. A group of Congress workers then shouted slogans inside the IFFI venue in the evening when Javadekar got up to deliver his speech as the chief guest. Superstars Amitabh Bachahan and Rajanikant were present when the incident happened.
Congress workers were whisked away from the venue and later taken into custody by the police even as Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar led another protest outside the venue during the same time.
The Congress workers were demanding that the Centre withdraw the EC exemption given to Karnataka for the project on Mahadayi, considered as Goa’s lifeline. Chodankar said the Centre has taken Goa for granted and is playing with the lives of the people in the state.
A little before Congress protests, another group comprising leaders from NGO Progressive Front of Goa (PFG) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP) shouted slogans outside the IFFI venue at the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium.
They staged the demonstration after meeting Javadekar and Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant at the venue. A group of protesters, including PFGs Hrudaynath Shirodkar, Mahesh Mhambre and GFPs Durgadas Kamat and Santosh Sawant, were detained and taken to a police station in North Goas Bicholim area, officials said.
The protests took place despite Javadekar meeting agitators before the IFFI inaugural function. Javadekar, in presence of Sawant, met representatives of NGOs, including the Goa Foundation, PFG and political parties like the GFP.
“The minister failed to give us any satisfactory reply. He wanted additional 15 days to respond to our demand to withdraw the letter given to Karnataka, said Kamat. “We are unhappy with the meeting as we could not get a firm assurance from Javadekar on withdrawal of the EC exemption,” a protester said.
An all-party delegation from Goa had met Javadekar on November 4 in New Delhi demanding that the letter given to Karnataka be withdrawn.
On November 18, Javadekar had written to the Goa government informing that a committee has been formed to review the letter. Goa and neighbouring Karnataka have been at loggerheads over sharing of the Mahadayi river water.
Both the states have filed Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) before the Supreme Court on the issue.