CM meets PM, seeks parity in gas pricing

Also discusses Sardar Sarovar dam height, BT cotton seed pricing issues

During his courtesy call to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after taking over as the Chief Minister for the fourth time, Narendra Modi Wednesday sought to drive home alleged discrimination against BJP-ruled Gujarat vis-a-vis other states.

Modi expressed his "unhappiness" over alleged discrimination against Gujarat regarding price of gas. He drew the PM's attention towards obstacles in raising the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam and discrimination against his state in funding for expanding canal network for irrigation under Centrally-sponsored Accelerated Irrigation Benefit programme (AIBP).

"Gujarat is not given gas at a price at which Delhi and Mumbai get it. We had gone to the court and won the case. Instead of accepting the order, the Government of India went to the Supreme Court to delay the process. I have expressed my unhappiness to the PM over this," Modi told reporters.

Though Modi had attended the meeting of the National Development Council, chaired by the PM soon after his re-election late last December, it was his first formal meeting with the PM after winning Assembly elections. Earlier, he had called on President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

Modi demanded that the Centre facilitate clearance required for raising the height of Sardar Sarovar dam to 138.68 m, enhancing its water storage capacity, and also facilitate creation of an additional irrigation potential of 6.8 lakh ha and 40 per cent additional power generation.

He raised the issue of the Centre's reluctance in providing assistance under AIBP to spread canal networks in water stressed regions. "As per the Government of India norms, Gujarat should get this. I requested him that Gujarat should get the same benefits that other states get," Modi said.

Modi also raised the issues of regulating BT cotton seed prices, flip-flop in allowing cotton export, non-payment of royalty on crude oil as per statutory provisions, coal allocation to Gujarat from nearer mines of Western Coal fields for power generation and complete waiver on custom duty in the shipbreaking industry.

He said that most of these issues not only adversely affect the economic growth and development of the state but also put common people, especially farmers and marginalised sections of society, in very difficult and distressful conditions.

"The PM has assured that he will himself look into these issues," he added.

Chief minister Narendra Modi's visit to the Shri Ram College of Commerce turned one end of Delhi University into a protest zone on Wednesday and police used water cannons and lathis to disperse students protesting against him.

Waving black flags and shouting anti-Modi slogans, students led by Left wing organisations assembled near SRCC and tried to get past police barricades on the stretch to the college from Patel Chest Institute. The students clashed with police after they got past the first barricade. Police resorted to a lathicharge and turned on the water cannons to break up the protest.

"We were told that some student organisations were planning to hold demonstrations. Barricades were put up to restrain the crowd," DCP (North) Sindhu Pillai said. "Water cannons were used only for a minute or so. The crowd broke the first barricade and was trying to break the second one too. We had to take steps to restrain them."

Piyush Raj of the All India Students' Association said: "We were protesting peacefully when some students tried to climb over the police barricades. I moved to the front to pacify by the crowd. I also told the police that we were trying to keep the protest peaceful. But I was pulled down from the barricade and detained by police."

Sunny Kumar, among the protesters on the street, said: "It is a shame that a person under whose leadership the Gujarat riots took place is being allowed to use the legitimacy of academic spaces like Delhi University for his prime ministerial ambitions. Progressive democratic voices in Delhi cannot let this happen, so we are protesting."

But if there were anti-Modi protests outside SRCC, the crowd inside was rooting for the man. Students applauded, cheered Modi each time he paused after making a point. He shook hands and posed for photographs with students. SRCC student Preeti Mohan said Modi's speech was "inspiring" and an "eye-opener".

"We didn't know details of the kind of work being done in Gujarat. The texts we study are so restrictive. The highlight of his speech was when he demonstrated how the state's focus on agriculture can help put the country on the growth track," she said.

Responding to queries on why did SRCC invite Modi to a college event, principal P C Jain said: "In all honesty, I want to say that we sent out invitations to eleven persons. Narendra Modi's office was the first one to reply to our invitation."

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