The Cauvery water dispute, which has been a bone of contention between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for decades now, has again led to violence in the region after Supreme Court pronounced its order on Monday. The court has directed Karnataka state government to release 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu for the next 10 days in an attempt to save the samba crops.
Cauvery Horata Samiti, the organisation which has been at the forefront of issue in Karnataka, called for a statewide ‘bandh’ leading to violent protests by farmers. The protests have affected public transport facilities, schools, colleges and government offices in Mandya.
The Cauvery water dispute has influenced the politics of the region for long with parties stirring emotions of people as the river has a deep cultural, economic and religious significance for them. This, in turn, led to a situation where the public opinion became more rigid with time making it even difficult for the political outfits to find a common ground.
What is the dispute?
The Cauvery basin covers a large expanse of land including major chunks in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and also smaller areas in Kerala and Puducherry. Initially, the dispute was between Karnataka and TN but later Kerala and Puducherry also entered the fray. The issue dates back to 1892 when an agreement was filed between Madras Presidency and Mysore for arbitration but led to a fresh set of disputes. Later, attempts were renewed to arbitrate between the two states under supervision of Government of India and second agreement was signed in 1924.
As Kerala and Puducherry also laid claim on share of Cauvery water after India attained Independence, a Fact Finding Committee was set-up in 1970 to figure out the situation on ground. The committee submitted its report in 1972 and further studies were done by expert committee and the states reached at an agreement in 1976. However, after a new government came to power in Tamil Nadu, it refused to give a consent to terms of agreement paving way for further dispute.
Later in 1986, Tamil Nadu government appealed the Central government to constitute a tribunal for solving the issue under Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956. However, the tribunal was not set-up until Supreme Court took cognizance of the matter and ordered the Central government to do so in 1990. The Cauvery Waters Tribunal was constituted on June, 2, 1990.
After 16 years of hearing and an interim order, the Tribunal announced its final order in 2007 allocating 419 tmc ft water to Tamil Nadu and 270 tmc ft to Karnataka. Kerala was given 30 tmc ft and Puducherry got 7 tmc ft. The Tribunal had come to a conclusion that total availability of water in Cauvery basin stood at 740 tmc ft. However, both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka filed a review petition before the Tribunal.
In 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as chairman of Cauvery River Authority, directed the Karnataka government to release 9,000 cusecs of water daily. The Supreme Court slammed state government as it failed to comply with the order. The government offered an unconditional apology and started the release of water leading to widespread violent protests.
However, the issue kept troubling the region as Karnataka stopped release of water again and Tamil Nadu government led by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa decided to sue the Karnataka government for contempt of court. With the Karnataka government continuously failing to release the water to Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister Jayalithaa filed an interlocutory petition in the Supreme Court in August, 2016 seeking release of water as per guidelines of Cauvery Tribunal. Announcing its verdict in the case, the SC has now directed Karnataka government to release 15,000 cusecs of water to its neighboring state for 10 days.