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OFFICERS and ministers who failed to maintain the Kosi embankment, leading to floods displacing about three million people, may go scot-free because of the tussle between the Bihar and Union governments. Union Minister of State for Water Resources Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav is bent upon dissolving the judicial probe of the floods, citing objections from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Three inquiry teams have been constituted after the breach: the state’s Kosi Breach Closure Advisory Team, the Centre’s High Level Expert Team and the judicial probe ordered by the Bihar government. With the first two committees looking into the technical aspects of the embankments, only the judicial probe can bring officials responsible for the breach to book. The judicial probe, headed by Rajesh Balia, former chief justice of the Patna High Court, came under fire probably because of a term of reference pertaining to the previous Rashtriya Janata Dal government’s role in maintaining the Kosi embankments. Highly placed sources hinted that the Union government was not very happy with the inclusion of this term of reference. Union minister Yadav, however, said: “The Bihar government has put MEA in an embarrassing position. The Kosi embankment is not a subject of India alone, it also pertains to Nepal. Judicial probe is a faux pas that will lead to an international crisis. The Bihar chief minister should have consulted us before constituting the probe. The probe is illegal.” Union water resources secretary also said that the Kosi agreement between two sovereign countries was a subject of the Union government and Bihar was not a party to it. Bijender Yadav, the Bihar irrigation minister, termed the Union minister’s allegations a drama. He has also dared the Union government to move the Supreme Court over the legality of the judicial probe. “If the Union government thinks that the judicial probe of the Kosi breach is illegal, it should move the supreme court. The judicial probe has been constituted under the Commission of Enquiries Act, 1952. We doubt the intention of the Union government. There is no question of dissolving the probe,” Bijender told Down To Earth. Justice Balia has already initiated the probe and statements of officers are being recorded.
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