New Delhi: Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz has asked his bosses to move his ministerial secretary J Harinarayan to another portfolio. According to sources close to Soz, he has made it clear that either the Andhra cadre IAS moves out, or he is given a change in portfolio.
Soz holds Harinarayan directly responsible for the current bout of Narmada crisis. According to Soz, Harinarayan, who is also the head of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), allowed the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to be raised from 110.64 metres to 121.92 metres at the March 8 meeting.
Sources said Soz was upset that he found out about the decision only after the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) lodged its protest.
“There was a show-down between Soz and Harinarayan. When Soz asked him why he did not take his permission, Harinarayan told him that under the 1979 Narmada Tribunal Award, he was not required to take his consent,” a Congress leader from Kashmir said.
When Mumbai Mirror spoke to him, Harinarayan admitted to not consulting Soz, saying “I do not have to. My function as head of the NCA is not the function of the ministerial office. It is a quasi-judicial body of the rank of a division bench of a high court. It’s orders can only be challenged in the Supreme Court through a Special Leave Petition.”
“We cleared the height of the dam only after we received a report from Rehabilitation Secretary Sarita Prasad, saying that rehabilitation was satisfactory. We had no reason to disbelieve her,” he added.
The tension between the minister and the secretary became apparent when Soz wrote out the Group of Ministers report after visiting rehabilitation sites in Madhya Pradesh, without including Harinarayan in the process.
“It was kept as a secret from his own secretary till it was submitted to the PM,” said a ministry official.
Official sources say that Soz envied Harinarayan for the praise he received from the PM for the manner in which he earned the confidence of the NBA on the issue of relief and rehabilitation.
They added that even in his earlier stint as Union Environment Minister in the NDA government, he had problem with his IAS officials. “It’s basically an issue of governance with him,” one officer said.