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After Didi's complaints, Centre reaches out to Bengal on Teesta water-sharing

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 25 March 2017, 20:45 IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee often claims that the Centre, under Narendra Modi's NDA government, is disturbing the federal structure of the country by taking unilateral decisions without discussing it with concerned state governments.

However, on Friday, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reportedly contacted Banerjee and expressed her desire to discuss the Teesta water-sharing treaty before a formal proposal is put in front of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina when she visits India next month.

Top MEA sources denied any telephonic conversation between the leaders on Friday or Saturday. However, sources in the state government insisted that Swaraj did reach out to the CM.

The formal Teesta agreement is to be signed on 25 May, and MEA officials have decided to consult West Bengal officials before going ahead with drafting the proposal. In this regard, Banerjee is likely to visit New Delhi in April and meet Swaraj.

Mamata's lament

Swaraj's move comes after Banerjee had told a Bengali TV channel in an interview on Thursday that her government had been blindsided by the Centre regarding the Teesta agreement. The Centre, on the other hand, claimed that the affected states had already been consulted, and that the agreement was being finalised to be placed before Bangladesh PM Hasina.

A senior West Bengal bureaucrat said: “We have received a letter from the MEA expressing its desire to discuss the issue with the state government, and also expressing its apology for not discussing it with the state government earlier.”

Sensitive handling needed

Senior leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress say that the sharing of Teesta waters is a critical issue, which needs to be dealt with sensitively.

Water experts has already raised concerns that if the Teesta water-sharing treaty is signed, it might affect cultivation in North Bengal, so steps needs to be taken before the deal is finalised.

State irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee said: “We hope that the discussion with the Centre regarding Teesta water-sharing agreement will yield positive results.”

First published: 25 March 2017, 18:59 IST