New Delhi: Terming the delay in clearance to the ambitious Ken-Betwa river-linking project by some independent environmentalists a "national crime", Union Minister Uma Bharti on Tuesday threatened to go on hunger strike if work on it gets further prolonged.
Work on the project, first effort of connecting two inter-state rivers—Ken in Madhya Pradesh and Betwwa in UP— to quench parched pocket of Bundelkhand(UP), was expected to take off from December last year, however, has been delayed for want of wildlife clearances.
"I consider causing delay to the project as national crime. I am not saying it's a treason, but it indeed is a national crime. Because you are denying livelihood for 70 lakh people," Bharti told reporters in New Delhi.
The Union Minister said it agitates her that "those sitting in air condition chambers" in Delhi are objecting to the project even as those, who are going to be affected by it are welcoming it as it will benefit 70 lakh people.
Calling herself "the biggest environmentalist", Bharti asked how can her intentions be doubted when she pitches for initiating work on the project and accused environmentalists of an expert committee under Ministry of Environment and Forest, who are looking into the issue of clearance for the project.
Bharti hastened to add that she has "no difference with the Environment Ministry or its Minister Prakash Javadekar" but with private environmentalists, who are members in the committee.
"If the project is delayed further at the next expert committee meeting, I will personally go on hunger strike. It is a matter of 70 lakh people. We will not sit before the Environment Minister as he is with us," Bharti said, voicing her frustration over the delay.
She also accused the environmentalists of forcing people of the region to live in miserable conditions.