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Saifuddin Soz takes charge as Water Resources Minister
New Delhi, Jan 30 (PTI) Senior Congress leader from Jammu and Kashmir Saifuddin Soz today took charge as the new Union Water Resources Minister.

The 60-year-old leader was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister in the expansion of the Union Council of Ministers carried out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday.

Later, Soz held a meeting with senior officials from the ministry.

Soz, an educationist, economist, writer, political and social worker, was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1983 and represents Jammu and Kashmir in the Union Cabinet after the exit of Ghulam Nabi Azad, who has since become the state Chief Minister.

Soz was leader of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference from 1984 to 1999.

He hit the national headlines when he differed with his party chief Farooq Abdullah and voted against the then Vajpayee Government, defying the party whip, and bringing down the 13-month BJP-led coalition.

Soz joined Congress thereafter and was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2004. He has served several parliamentary and consultative committees with distinction and has written extensively on subjects ranging from Islam to literature.

Soz said it will be his effort to sort out "small differences" among the states. "I shall create a new work culture and try to solve problems. There may be divergent views. Problems can be solved through dialogue and not Hartals", he said. Interestingly, Soz, who had been demanding a compensation for the state for the Indus Water Treaty, said, "Let me understand the situation first".

When pointed out that he had opposed the inter-linking of rivers during the Vajpayee regime, he said, "my perception was that it was not an achievable goal. Now the Ministry is trying to link small rivers and rivulets".

The Minister also dismissed suggestions from some states for royalty for water taken from them. "It is not proper," he said.

Soz said through mutual cooperation India and Nepal too can utilise their common water resources for the benefit of the people of both countries. "The same applies to Bangladesh and Pakistan also", he said.

The Minister, who held a meeting with senior Ministry officials after taking charge, said he had sought to know whether the research being carried out under the aegis of the Water Resources Ministry was "socially or academically relevant".

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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