Bengaluru, Sept 8: Pro-Kannada groups and farmer unions across Karnataka have called for state-wide bandh on Friday to protest Supreme Court order to release Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu. The strike isn’t just limited to the farmer unions with organisations across the state also lending their support to the strike. From taxi drivers to the Kannada film industry, people from across diverse sectors have come out in solidarity with the farmers. (ALSO READ: Karnataka bandh today, 9th September 2016 , LIVE Updates)
Normal life in the state is expected to come to a halt, and district administration has declared holidays for government offices and banks. While some corporate offices have declared a holiday others have asked their employees to work from home. Private schools too with begin their three-day weekend on September 9. Most of the shops will remain shut but pharmacies will remain open. Emergency services such as ambulances and medical care will be available. Transportation in the state will come to complete halt. Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) too are likely to adhere to the bandh, keeping their buses off roads. (ALSO READ: Karnataka Bandh on September 9, 2016: Protest intensifies in Mandya over Cauvery water dispute, KSRTC bus services worst affected)
The agitation in the state intensified in recent weeks after the Supreme Court’s directive to release 15,000 cusecs of water every day for the next 10 days. This interim order came after Tamil Nadu approached the apex court, demanding that Karnataka release water as per the order of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal outlined in February 2007.
After the SC’s order, Tamil Nadu was asked to approach the Supervisory Committee set up resolving disputes which reiterated the interim order. Farmer in Karnataka being the main stakeholders took to the streets protesting the directive. Anti-Tamil Nadu demonstrations have sparked and unions have asked the Congress-led state government, which has decided to abide by the order, to file for an appeal.
Cut to February 5, 2007. The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT), formed in 1991 on the directive of the Supreme Court, gave outlined a water release plan after 16 years. According to the plan, out of the total 740 thousand million cubic (tmc) feet, Tamil Nadu was to receive 419 tmc ft of water, Karnataka 270 tmc ft, Kerala 7 tmc ft, Pondicherry 7 tmc ft. The remaining 14 tmc ft was set aside for environmental preservation and outflow to the sea. (ALSO READ: Cauvery water-sharing row: 10 things to know about the controversy which brings Karnataka, Tamil Nadu to standstill)
The order also stated that Karnataka must release 192 tmc ft of water from Cauvery basins out of which 182 tmc ft would constitute part of Tamil Nadu’s share of 419 tmc ft while the remaining 10 tmc ft would be allotted for environment preservation. The order was rejected by Karnataka, which claimed 42 tmc ft extra, totalling its share up to 312 tmc ft.
The 192 tmc ft to be released during a normal monsoon year, from June to May; 10 tmc ft in June, 34 in July, 50 in August, 40 in September, 22 in October, 15 in November, 8 in December, 3 in January and 2.5 from February to May. The issue of poor monsoon wasn’t addressed properly by the CWDT. The statement issued was ambiguous and left the distribution of water at the discretion of the supervisory committee. “In case the yield of Cauvery basin is less in a distress year, the allocated shares shall be proportionately reduced among the States of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Union Territory of Pondicherry,” according to report by The Indian Express.
Coming back to present day situation, while parts of the state received rainfall above normal, the catchment area of the Cauvery received rainfall that was 33 per cent below normal. This has led to shortage of water, causing the state of Karnataka to release only 33 tmc ft of water instead of the agreed 94 tmc ft. Tamil Nadu took the matter to the Supreme Court instead of the Supervisory Committee. Despite this, Karnataka offered to release an additional 10,000 cusecs of water for 6 days amounting to 6 tmc ft. This was increased by the interim order to 15,000 cusecs for 10 days and reinforced by the Supervisory Committee. (ALSO READ: Karnataka Bandh over Cauvery water dispute: Here’s everything you need to know on why Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are behaving like India and Pakistan)
“2.90 lakh hectares have been cultivated in the Cauvery basin this year. Even after releasing water to Tamil Nadu we have sufficient water to irrigate these crops by releasing water at 10-day intervals,” Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was quoted saying by Indian Express. “We need about 46 tmc ft of water for irrigation and 28 tmc ft to meet drinking water needs in Mysore, Bengaluru and Mandya till June 2017. We think we can manage with some additional rainfall in September and October,” he added.
While the Chief Minister remains optimistic, the government data tells a different story altogether. The Mandya region cultivated arounf 0.69 lakh hectare of land this year until August 29 as compared to 0.95 lakh of land during the same period last year. This has pushed many farmers to commit suicide. Karnataka is already among the top three states in the country with the highest rate of farmer suicide. A dire shortage of water could make the bad situation worse. In the last fiscal year, 1,002 farmers killed themselves, breaking all previous records.
A report by the Deccan Chronicle said “Mandya, Mysuru, Haveri, Belagavi, Bidar, Shivamogga, Tumkur, Gadag, Dharwad and Davangere districts have recorded the highest number of farmer suicides since April, 2015”. Both states; Tamil Nadu and Karnataka plan to take legal action to minimise the plight of their farmers. The latter will be seeking a modification in the water release plan, while the former will seek to increase its share.