By Dr. Abdul Ruff
Supreme Court of India said, “Karnataka should not be bent upon maintaining an obstinate stand of defiance, for one knows not when the wrath of law shall fall on one. Tamil Nadu refused to make any more submissions in the case saying, “What is the use? Whatever orders are passed, Karnataka will not obey it.”
Cauvery water row has taken a new phase of development as demonstrations in Karnataka have now moved m to Tamil Nadu when the Tamil Nadu’s opposition and farmers protest seeking the Indian federal government run by the BJP’s Narendra Modi has thrown life out of gear across Tamil Nadu. The intense demonstrations in Cauvery river delta districts of the state have affected the normal life in the state. The rails have been stopped from moving to both sides.
Farmers and opposition parties in Tamil Nadu on October 17 staged a two days rail roko (block the trains) agitation at various places in the state demanding the Centre to constitute the Cauvery Management Board immediately. The protests were held against the stance of BJP-led Union government in the Supreme Court which opposed immediate setting up of the Board. Thousands of protestors participated in the rail roko demonstrations, who courted arrest and were lodged in the community and marriage halls, police said, adding they were likely to be released later today.
The agitations marked the beginning of a 48-hour rail blockade by farmers outfits which has the support of opposition parties including the DMK, Tamil Nadu Congress, IUML, CPI(M), CPI, MDMK and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi. Farmer leader and chief of National South Indian Rivers Inter-Linking Farmers Association P Ayyakannu led the protest in Tiruchirappalli by squatting over the railway track in Kudamuratti bridge area.
Demonstrations squatted on railway tracks with green turbans and planted paddy seedlings in the narrow gap between railway tracks. They managed to block trains briefly but were removed later by police. “We will continue our stir. Tomorrow too this will be held. We plan to block Vaigai Super Fast Express. We urge the Centre to not make us paupers, (by adopting a stance against CMB),” Ayyakannu told PTI. Similar protests witnessed huge participation of people in the entire Cauvery Delta region of the state including Tiruchirappalli, Thanjavur and Tiruvarur districts.
DMK treasurer and Leader of Opposition M K Stalin led the protest at Perambur suburban railway station here in which scores of his party legislators and functionaries took part. Leading the protestors, he blocked a suburban train, following which he along with party cadres was taken away by police from the railway station. In some places including Madurai and Cuddalore, police resorted to baton-charge to disperse a section of farmers and party workers who insisted on blocking train traffic. Veteran CPI leader Nallakannu was detained at Virudhunagar near Madurai along with 300 others for blocking train.
MDMK chief Vaiko and CPI (M) State Secretary G Ramakrishnan squatted on railway track at the busy Chennai Central Railway station. Similarly, CPI State Secretary R Mutharasan participated in a rail roko stir in Tiruvarur district. Vaiko told reporters that the stir was to protect the rights of Tamil Nadu on the Cauvery issue. Blaming the BJP regime at the Centre for having a “hidden agenda,” to “support Karnataka,” he said, it was being done for “political edge.” Former Chennai Mayor and DMK legislator Ma Subramanaian (Saidapet), senior DMK leader Duraimurugan (Vellore Dt), former Union Minister TR Baalu (Tambaram), former State Ministers including EV Velu (Tiruvannamalai), K Ponmudi (Villupuram), and KN Nehru (Tiruchirappalli), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi chief Thol Thirumavlavan (Basin Bridge) led rail roko demonstrations as well. “Central government should come forward to withdraw their stand in Supreme Court against setting up CMB,” Thirumavalavan said.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) urged the Centre to constitute a Cauvery management board to ensure fair water distribution between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Various farmers’ organisations and opposition parties yesterday staged a protest in various parts of the Tamil Nadu, demanding the constitution of a Cauvery board. The protests were held against the stance of BJP-led NDA government in the Supreme Court which opposed the immediate setting up of the board. Thousands of protestors participated in rail roko demonstrations, courted arrest and were lodged in the community and marriage halls. Police said they were likely to be released later today. The protestors yesterday began a 48-hour rail blockade demanding the constitution of a Cauvery board.
Karnataka has triggered a constitutional crisis by taking a defiant stand that it was unable to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu as per the orders of the Supreme Court, which passed a fresh order on Friday asking the Siddaramaiah government to release 6,000 cusecs daily till October 6 or face the “wrath of law”. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit said, “Karnataka should not be bent upon maintaining an obstinate stand of defiance, for one knows not when the wrath of law shall fall on one.”
During the hearing, Karnataka counsel Fali S Nariman handed over to the SC a letter written by CM Siddaramaiah to him conveying that both Houses of the state legislature, all political parties and Union ministers were unanimous that the “will of the people of Karnataka” was against release of water. The bench was caught in a catch-22 situation. Involved in the situation are constitutional figures and institutions — the SC, Houses of Karnataka assembly, the two CMs, the attorney general and the leader of opposition.
At stake is the majesty of rule of law and dignity of the highest court. Complicating the case further, Tamil Nadu refused to make any more submissions in the case saying, “What is the use? Whatever orders are passed, Karnataka will not obey it.” The team, which also inspected the Cauvery basin in Karnataka, submitted its report in the apex court. The apex court had set up the team while hearing a petition by Tamil Nadu government seeking release of Cauvery water by Karnataka. The bench found a temporary escape route when AG Mukul Rohatgi agreed to its suggestion for constitution of Cauvery Management Board before October 4. The AG said the CMB would proceed to Cauvery basin areas in both states to take stock of the water situation and report back to the court on October 6. But the court also decided to partly address Karnataka’s continued defiance of its orders. It invoked Article 144 of the Constitution, which provides that “all authorities, civil and judicial.., in India shall act in aid of the SC”.
The bench agreed with the suggestion of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the Supervisory Committee can have G S Jha, Chairman/Member of Central Water Commission (CWC) as chairman. The panel, which would also comprise Chief Secretaries or his nominees of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, will have chief engineers of all stakeholders including Kerala and Puducherry.
On October 04 Karnataka was directed to release 2,000 cusecs Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu from October 7 to 18 by the Supreme Court, which later deferred its order asking the Centre to set up Cauvery Water Management Board till it finally decided on appeals relating to the age-old water dispute. Instead, the apex court agreed to the suggestion that a Supervisory Committee, comprising officials and technical experts from the Centre, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry, be set up to inspect Cauvery basin for assessing ground realities.
The Supreme Court had ordered the Centre to constitute Cauvery Management Board within four weeks. In a statement, DMK president M Karunanidhi condemned the Centre’s submission before the apex court stating that by this sudden and biased decision, the Centre has reduced itself to an instrument echoing the sentiments of Karnataka. By this move the BJP government has not only belittled the judiciary but also betrayed the people of Tamil Nadu, he said.
The apex court deferred the orders of September 20 and 30 for setting up of the CWMB, after the Attorney General said the civil appeals against Cauvery Tribunal’s recommendation on it was pending and listed for hearing before a three-judge bench on October 18. The committee was asked by the bench, comprising Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit, to file its report by October 17. The order was passed after taking on record the written note of Karnataka government that it has released around 17.5 TMC of water from September 5 to 30 and the proposal was to release 3.1 TMC by October 6.
However, Tamil Nadu government complained that there was a deficit 4.6 TMC of supply of water in the month of September and it required a total of 22 TMC of water till October.
The row over release of Cauvery water took a murky turn on Oct 4, 2016
with Tamil Nadu slamming the Centre for failing to constitute a management board as directed by the Supreme Court. Political parties in TN, including the ruling AIADMK, slammed the Centre after it reportedly made a submission before the apex court stating that forming the Board is the sole prerogative of the Parliament and the courts did not have the jurisdiction to issue direction in this regard.
Earlier, ongoing protests by Karnataka farmers and pro-Kannada organisations in Mandya pertaining to Supreme Court directive on release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, has continued to its impact on the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). The Corporation has suspended bus services from Bengaluru towards Mysuru and from Bengaluru to various destinations towards Mysuru including places like Mandya, Chamarajnagar, Ooty and some places in Kerala as well. Same is the case with buses to Tamil Nadu via Mysuru highway. However, buses to TN via Hosur Road remain unaffected.
The apex court-appointed Supervisory Committee, formed to inspect Cauvery basin to assess the ground realities in the region, said the neighbouring riparian states needed to appreciate interest of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to protect their established irrigation and Karnataka’s aspirations for development and educate their people accordingly. The 9-member committee’s report will come up for perusal before a three-judge bench of justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar which will hear a long pending appeal against the award of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal and other related contentious issues arising out of the dispute.
The panel in its 40-page report has noted that farmers in both states were in severe distress and adequate crop compensation must be provided to them. “There has been large number of suicides reported in Karnataka’s Mandya district,” the report said in its assessment of the social aspects of the situation in the Cauvery basin. However, the technical assessment of the ground reality stated that “the water application techniques are outdated and unscientific and the value of water is not realized. The water applied to the field is on the concept of flooding from one field to another adjacent field and as such the water consumption is on the higher side and during period of distress, this becomes very significant depending upon the soil condition”.
The apex court-appointed Supervisory Committee said in its 40-page report has noted that farmers in both states were in severe distress and adequate crop compensation must be provided to them. The report said the infrastructure to deliver water to the farmers is century old and has very low conveyance efficiency. This needs to be modernized for optimal use of scarce water. The conveyance efficiency can be further improved by piped distribution network and application efficiency by micro irrigation and precision irrigation. In addition, on-farm development works may be provided to ensure equitable distribution of water to individual farmer’s field
In the mean time, the Supervisory Committee headed by G S Jha, chairperson of the Central Water Commission, agreed that both states have been facing water shortage and “in the absence of required water, the labour employment for farming and fishing is also limited, creating a scenario of unemployment and financial hardship to them”. “It has been seen from the data that this year is the consecutive low flow year. During the last five years it has been witnessed that three years are low flow years. In such a situation, the uncertainty prevails and farmers of the basin states suffer in the process… Both the States of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu need to appreciate interest of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in protection of their established irrigation and Karnataka’s aspirations for development respectively and should educate their people accordingly
Karnataka has quickly declared 42 out of 48 talukas under the Cauvery basin as drought-affected. The state has also been at the receiving end of at least six interim rulings by the apex court to release water to Tamil Nadu, which it has unwillingly complied with, it said. The panel, after interacting with farmers and public representatives, also said that due to lack of water for irrigation in Karnataka, there is heavy impact on economy and many people have left villages seeking work in urban areas.
With regard to Tamil Nadu, it said agricultural laborers have been migrating from Cauvery Delta districts and many of them pushed to committing suicide due to financial burden.
Meanwhile, a day before the crucial hearing on Cauvery dispute in the Supreme Court, a high level panel suggested doing away with “outdated and unscientific water application techniques” to resolve the wrangle, saying both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were facing water shortage, creating unemployment and financial hardship for the people.
Earlier, the bench had directed Karnataka to release 2,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu from October 7-18, while deferring its order asking the Centre to set up the Cauvery Management Board till it finally decided on appeals relating to the dispute. It had also agreed to the suggestion that a Supervisory Committee, comprising officials and technical experts from the Centre, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry, be set up to inspect the Cauvery basin for assessing the ground realities.
There is a general belief that if Karnataka refuses to release water for low lying Tamil nadu for drinking and irrigation purposes – even after the Supreme Court direction in this regard to do so – only rains could punish them with fewer showers.
Supreme Court could also dismiss the government in Karnataka for deliberately violating the court orders and misguiding the court plus belittling the Apex Court.
Possibly Karnataka would understand it.
Meanwhile, both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu should evolve strategies to drill ground water by all other possible means. People should not be punished for the dirty politics of states, if any. Like the previous Congress government, the incumbent BJP government of Modi also seems to play tricks with people of Tamil nadu – the farmers and politicians accuse. Modi government is eager to win the Karnataka assembly poll by defeating the ruling Congress party and hence does not support Tamil Nadu, indirectly promoting the interests of Karnataka.
By following an ineffective UN, Indian government also does not try to resolve the Cauvery dispute amicably, thereby letting the states to fight each other and cause problems for the people.
One might consider Modi government attitude somewhat sadistic!