After a long debate that saw legislators quoting Upanishads and Puranas on the floor of the Assembly, the Madhya Pradesh government on Wednesday passed a resolution granting river Narmada the status of a living entity and committed itself to the protection of its legal rights.
A month ago, the Uttarakhand High Court had declared Ganga, Yamuna and their tributaries living entities with the status of a legal person. A week ago, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while participating in the Narmada Seva Yatra, had suggested that the Madhya Pradesh government bring a Bill in the Assembly to this effect.
While debating the resolution, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that a Bill to provide a legal framework to the resolution will be brought in the Assembly. He said an officer or an organisation will be given the task of filing complaints on behalf of the river against persons indulging in crimes like illegal mining and felling of trees.
“We will not wait for a third party to initiate prosecution proceedings when illegalities are committed against the river. They will be initiated in the name of the river. The living entity status will mean that the Narmada will be owner of all property and litigation for its conservation could be initiated on the river’s behalf. The river’s biodiversity will be protected. We have exploited rivers so far, now is the time to nourish them,’’ Chouhan said.
Referring to the Narmada Seva Yatra that began on December 11, the CM said, “You may make fun of me and the yatra but, mark my words, it will set an example for the world.’’
The Congress, however, said the yatra has been launched with an eye on the next Assembly elections.
MLAs of the Opposition party accused the government of spending crores on inviting actors and performers to the yatra. Congress legislator Mukesh Nayak said, “You are insulting the river by inviting small-time artistes and saying that their presence added to Narmada’s glory.”
Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh alleged that rampant illegal sand mining was on in the Narmada basin and added that he would wholeheartedly back the resolution if the government announced a blanket ban on mining.