Early friday, the border town of Hosur in Tamil Nadu was witness briefly to a situation that local residents are quite familiar with whenever the Cauvery water dispute with Karnataka boils over. Located just 50 km from Bengaluru, Hosur went into lockdown as anticipation mounted over the Supreme Court verdict, with police from both states taking position on either side of the border.
Karnataka government buses plying to destinations in Tamil Nadu were stopped on the other side, while buses from within the state halted inside town. The passengers were forced to walk across the border and board local government buses — under the watch of strong police contingents.
“It’s a big inconvenience. We boarded a Karnataka government bus in Bengaluru to travel to Villupuram in Tamil Nadu and now have to catch a local bus in Hosur. But we are glad there has been no untoward incidents,’’ said Senthil Kumar, a daily-wage earner travelling to his village 50 km from Bengaluru, relief in TN town: ‘glad it’s still quiet’ with his family.
But near noon, as soon as the Supreme Court verdict was known, cheer spread in Karnataka, and the tension eased in Hosur. “The situation is normal like this because Tamil Nadu’s share has been reduced and given to Karnataka. Even if one TMC of water had been reduced from Karnataka’s share, all hell would have broken loose,’’ said Yuvarajan, a businessman in Hosur town.
“The verdict is a reflection of the disarray in the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and its failure to protect the interests of the state following J Jayalalithaa’s death,’’ he said.
On the other side, S K Malthesh, a Karnataka Police officer deployed near Hosur, described the situation as “absolutely peaceful”. “We have not allowed bus services to resume but only as precaution,’’ he said.
Inside Hosur town, meanwhile, life was buzzing like any other day — school children darted across the road dodging traffic, a constant stream of buses flowed in and out of the bus stand and people huddled around tea shops.
At the Cauvery basin in Karnataka, where security was at its peak around the reservoirs, a cautious but celebratory mood set in.
“We welcome the Supreme Court decision. We think it is favourable to us. It is the first time that a judgment has gone in favour of the upper riparian state and it is a landmark in that sense. We need to study the finer aspects of the judgment,’’ said farmer leader and MLA from the Cauvery basin, K S Puttannaiah, of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.
“The increase in allocation for Karnataka will enable the state to expand agriculture in the basin area,’’ said another politician from the area, N Cheluvarayaswamy, who recently moved from H D Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) to the Congress. The JD(S), which has huge stakes in the Cauvery basin populated by the agricultural Vokkaliga community, claimed credit for the verdict.
“The appeal against the Cauvery tribunal’s verdict was filed in Supreme Court when I was the chief minister in 2007. After 10 years, the Supreme Court has given its verdict. I have not been able to see the entire text of the judgment. I will react after I study the judgment,’’ said H D Kumaraswamy, JD(S) state president and Gowda’s son.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was cautious despite the order being seen as a win for his Congress government, with assembly elections around the corner.
“We welcome the verdict but it is not a victory for anyone or a loss for anyone. The state of Karnataka will be able to save 10 TMC of water from the 192 TMC it had to release earlier to Tamil Nadu every year,’’ Siddaramaiah said.
Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who is associated with the BJP and the NDA, said the judgment “seems to be fair to Karnataka despite the inept handling of the case by the Siddaramaiah government in the early stages”.
“There are some reservations over the fact that the apex court has directed the Centre to constitute a regulatory body to supervise implementation of the final order and to adjudicate the proportion of water sharing in years of monsoon failure,” he said.