A state-wide bandh to protest Karnataka’s plans to build check dams across Cauvery river in Mekadatu resulted in a near shutdown in Tamil Nadu on Saturday. Opposition-backed transport unions, farmers, retailers and traders launched flash protests in Chennai and other cities.
Over 2,000 people were taken in police custody from Chennai Egmore railway station after All Farmers’ Associations president P R Pandian led the blocking of an express train. Pandian said none of them had been arrested but were kept in custody till evening.
While farmers’ union led the protest in Egmore, at least 100 members of SDPI were arrested from Chennai Central railway station for organising a protest inside the station. A group of people who resorted to protest in Koyambedu were also detained.
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Although all opposition parties united to adopt a resolution in the assembly on Friday, there was a face-off after DMK and AIADMK squabbled over taking credit for the fight in Cauvery water issue. Karnataka plans two reservoirs at Mekedatu, across Cauvery river, for which the state has floated global ‘expression of interests’ for a feasibility study. The matter has further heated up with Karnataka’s decision to make a budgetary allocation of Rs 25 crore for the initial preparation of the project.
A delegation of all MPs from Tamil Nadu including that of AIADMK, DMK, CPI(M) and BJP met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday and handed over a copy of the assembly resolution urging the Centre to prevent Karnataka from going ahead with any dam project across inter-state river Cauvery.
According to politicians in Tamil Nadu, the new dams will curtail the flow in catchment areas, which in turn will affect agriculture and drinking water supply to many districts in Tamil Nadu.
Moving the resolution, which was unanimously adopted by all parties on Friday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, said, “This House urges the Centre to take immediate steps to stop preparation of a detailed project report to build a new dam in Mekedatu in Karnataka.” The state demand is that any new project should be taken up in Cauvery only with the consultation and consent of the Cauvery Management Board, which is not yet formed by the Centre.