Centre works on Teesta deal

Calcutta Telegraph New Delhi, May 4: The Centre is confident of being able to convince Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on the Teesta water-sharing agreement and get it signed well before Bangladesh goes into election mode next year.

Sources in the water resources ministry said a detailed presentation would be made before Mamata on the salient features of the agreement that they insist will create “a win-win scenario” for India and Bangladesh.

Water resources minister Pawan Bansal too hoped “a positive resolution” would be possible, saying the problems lay in “differing perceptions” and not in the details of the agreement.

The Centre is on an overdrive as it wants to help the pro-India Sheikh Hasina government with a treaty that endorses a 50:50 sharing formula of Teesta water, but will not do anything without taking the Bengal government on board.

Water resources ministry sources said they were in a position to convince Mamata that the deal wouldn’t hurt the state’s interests. The sources said the 50:50 formula would be as good as 75:25 in favour of West Bengal in actual terms. The complex sharing agreement has for the first time sought to get water discharge measured and take into account the natural replenishment of the river on the other side of the border, they pointed out.

The ministry has been collecting data from both sides to be able to make a comprehensive presentation before the state government.

External affairs minister S.M. Krishna broached this topic with Mamata yesterday in the context of the Bangladesh foreign minister’s coming visit to Delhi.

The water resources ministry has also decided to replace all the 123 gates of the Farakka barrage over the next five years to prevent recurrent breaches.

The ministry, which feels trade unions of all the parties — CPM, Trinamul and the Congress — were creating hurdles in repair work because they were opposed to outsourcing, has also decided to keep a few spare gates ready to be able to block breaches without delay. The replacement of the gates will cost Rs 105 crore.