Despite violence in the Cauvery river basin region of Mandya during protests by farmers and pro-Karnataka groups, the Congress government in the state Tuesday decided to adhere to a Supreme Court directive to release 15,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water for 10 days to neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
The decision was announced by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah following an all-party meeting on Tuesday evening, where the opposition BJP and JDS opposed the move.
“In light of the Supreme Court order, Karnataka will release water to Tamil Nadu despite severe hardship for water in the state,” Siddaramaiah said.
“The Karnataka government was ready to release 10,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for six days. We stated this in the Supreme Court. The court has ordered us to release 15,000 cusecs for 10 days. We will obey the order,” he said.
The Karnataka government had earlier said that it had only 51 TMC (thousand million cubic) feet of water in its reservoirs in the Cauvery basin, making it difficult for the state to release water as demanded by Tamil Nadu under the 2007 mandate of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. As per the final order of the tribunal, Karnataka must release 192 TMC feet of water to Tamil Nadu in a normal monsoon year (June to May). Karnataka has so far released only 33 TMC feet of water to Tamil Nadu between June and August, against a target of 94 TMC feet of water for the period.
The Karnataka government has claimed that poor monsoon rainfall in the catchment of the Cauvery had left the state with only 51 TMC feet of water in its reservoirs, just about enough to service the drinking water requirements of the Cauvery basin. Tamil Nadu has been demanding water for its samba crop in the basin.
Siddaramaiah sought to assuage farmers in Mandya by stating that the state would approach the Supreme Court to modify its September 5 order.
“We will try to fulfil the drinking water needs of Bengaluru, Mysuru and Mandya and will also give water to our farmers. The farmers need not worry,” Siddaramaiah said, asking protesters not to resort to violence.
He said that the JDS and the BJP had also followed Supreme Court orders and released water to Tamil Nadu during difficult monsoon years when the two parties were in power in Karnataka.
Earlier in the day, a bandh called by farmers and pro-Karnataka groups in Mandya saw hundreds of people take to the streets and disrupt traffic on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway.
The bandh, spearheaded by groups such as the Cauvery Agitation Committee, led by 85-year-old G Madegowda of Mandya, and the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, saw protesters burn tyres on the highway, vandalise government offices and tear down posters of local political leaders, including those of Siddaramaiah.
Following the bandh call, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation suspended its services between Bengaluru and Mysuru for the day. Mandya district collector S Ziyaullah ordered that the tourist area around Krishna Raja Sagar reservoir on Cauvery river and the popular Brindavan Gardens be shut down for four days.
The Kannada Okkoota, a federation of pro-Kannada organisations led by former MLA Vatal Nagaraj, has called for a statewide bandh on Saturday to protest against the Supreme Court order.
The Bengaluru-Mysuru highway was blocked at multiple places along the Cauvery belt, including Mandya, Maddur and Srirangapatana, as agitators burnt effigies and shouted slogans against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
In Mandya, agitators attacked the offices of the Cauvery Neeravari Nigam, the PWD, a post office and the town municipal office. They vandalised the premises, breaking flower pots and window panes.
Sensing trouble during the day, the Mandya district administration announced a holiday for schools and colleges in the district on Tuesday, and later extended the holiday till September 9.
With public transport affected, the traffic police made alternative routes available to the public to commute between Bengaluru and Mysuru.
Cauvery Agitation Committee leader Madegowda warned of serious consequences if the government releases water to Tamil Nadu. He also called for removal of lawyer Fali Nariman as Karnataka’s counsel for failing the state.
President of the Vokkaligara Sangha Appaji Gowda also made a similar call. “Karnataka received a severe setback in Supreme Court because the state’s defence was weak,” Gowda said.
Vokkaligas are the dominant community in the Cauvery belt. “Mr Nariman is not the right choice to represent Karnataka in a case against Tamil Nadu, spearheaded by its Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, as he is the counsel in Jaya’s disproportionate assets case. Hence, Nariman may have a soft corner for Jaya and her state,” Gowda alleged.