Cauvery water dispute: Farmers and activists of Mandya protest against SC directive

Protests by the farmers and pro-Kannada outfit activists escalated in various parts of Karnataka on Tuesday after the Supreme Court directed the state government to release Cauvery water for Tamil Nadu. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah will be convening a meeting of legislature leaders and MPs, later in the day, in Bengaluru to discuss the issue.

As protesters hit the streets agitating against the apex court directive to release 15,000 cusecs of water per day for the next 10 days to the neighbouring state, the Cauvery Hitarakshana Samithi (Cauvery protection committee) called for a bandh on Tuesday in Mandya, the hotbed of Cauvery politics.

"We have decided to call for Mandya bandh on Tuesday to protest against the court direction to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu when there is hardly any water left on our side of the river," Samithi President and former MP G Made Gowda told reporters at Mandya, some 100 km from Bengaluru.

Karnataka has been experiencing bad monsoon since the last three years. The state government refused to release water for Tamil Nadu citing water scarcity faced by the farmers. Mandya has been termed as the hotbed of Cauvery politics as about half of the agricultural land in the district receives water from the Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) dam which is built across the Cauvery. Bad monsoons and depleting water levels of the river have only added to the woes of the farmers as half of the land in Mandya is also dependent on South-West monsoons.

Gowda had also urged the government to file a review petition in the apex court. He said he has spoken to state Water Resources Minister MB Patil over the phone and urged him to safeguard the interest of the Karnataka farmers.

The farmers' leader also warned the government that it would face a strong agitation if the water was released for Tamil Nadu.

A CNN-News18 report quoted Patil as saying that there are only two dams that are at present full in the state. "It has been a bad monsoon this year. We have asked farmers to take up crops which consume less water and not to grow water intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane," he said.

Protests broke out in other parts of the state including Chamrajnagar, Mysuru and Hubli with farmers and pro-Kannada activists demonstrating against the Supreme Court order and urging the Siddaramaiah government to protect interests of Karnataka farmers.

Police said effigies and posters of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa were burnt in some places of the district.

A group of farmers tried to enter the KRS Reservoir in Mysuru, however, the police managed to stop them. According to The Hindu, the deputy commissioner of Mandya has banned entry of tourists to the KRS reservoir and the historical Brindavan Gardens in its downstream from Tuesday to Friday.

'Karnataka Okkuta', led by Vatal Nagaraj, called for a 'Karnataka bandh' on 9 September.

"There is no water in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mandya and Chamrajnagar, and that is the truth. We have called for Karnataka bandh on 9 September to protest against the injustice meted out to farmers here," Nagaraj told reporters.

The protests have escalated to such a level that vehicles proceeding to Mysore from neighbouring Nilgiris district have been stopped near the border as a precautionary measure, the police said.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

On 2 September, the Supreme Court had made an emotional appeal to Karnataka saying 'live and let live', after Tamil Nadu brought to the notice of the court that the chief minister of the neighbouring state has said that not a drop of water will be released to it.

In a recent plea, Tamil Nadu had sought a direction to Karnataka to release 50.52 thousand million cubic (tmc) feet of Cauvery water to save 40,000 acres of samba crops this season.

In reply, Karnataka had said it has a deficit of about 80 tmc feet in its four reservoirs.

The history

Karnataka’s contention, as Firstpost writer Srinivasa Prasad says, is that Tamil Nadu had resorted to “prior-appropriation” of Cauvery water and that the British made it possible by favouring the Madras Presidency against Mysore, which was then ruled by a king.

In 1881, Mysore (Mysuru) wanted to build a dam across the Cauvery, and Madras (Chennai) had objected to it, Prasad writes. The British arbitrated and an agreement was initiated in 1892, followed by another in 1924. However, due to the prolonged dispute, Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal was formed in 1991, which after 17 years of fierce deliberations came up with an award in 2007.

The tribunal allocated 270 tmc feet of water to Karnataka, 419 to Tamil Nadu stating that Karnataka should release 192 tmc feet of water to Tamil Nadu in every “water year” (from June to May). Futhermore, the tribunal said that during bad monsoon, the states must share the “distress” in the proportion of their normal allocations. This issue, however, remained contentious, Prasad writes, as there has been an absence of an effective mechanism to ensure a proportionate sharing of the “distress”.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Sep 06, 2016 14:00 PM

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