Cauvery- The River of Dispute

The thorny issue of Cauvery river sharing refuses to go away.

It has taken 16 years and 600 or more sittings, but the vexing issue is nowhere near over even after its much awaited final verdict has been pronounced. The riparian states mainly Karnataka and Tamil nadu have not accepted the award yet. The smaller states of Kerala and Pondicherry have not been satisfied either.

TN citing some technical reasons as the basis wants to have review so that it can get a bigger and better deal than what it has already managed to get.

The Karnataka ‘ryots’ ( Read Farmers) have lived upto their reputation of causing riots and public disturbances and have managed to create a feeling that some kind of intentional injustice has been done to the state by the conspiratorial Central and TN Govts. The regional Kannada parties making most of it have sufficiently whipped up divisive sentiments. Efforts have been made to twist the final verdict as if it were a serious blow to the Kannada Language and culture itself rather than merely disputing against the allocated share figures. Poets and film-starts have entered the fray too giving credence to this growing ill will.

Chauvinism is on the rise again in the State and even saner figures who dared to opine on the contrary are being violently rebuked and insulted on the streets. Girish Karnad’s is a case in the point.

Coming to the brass tacks about figures themselves it seems no river water dispute anywhere has ever been solved by a tribunal, if at all.

Talks seems to be the only way out but that option has already been exhausted long back by the adamant State Govts on this dispute lasting from the days of British raj. Allegations being heaped as to how the Madras presidency authorities had set the ball rolling from its days giving always the erstwhile Madras state undeserved higher share than the upper riparian Karnataka ( or erstwhile Mysore) which it has always maintained it as an unfair political advantage.

Even now the Karnataka is sore that DMK Clout at the centre has turned the verdict completely in TN’s favour and the feeling is almost unanimous .

So far so good.

OK, we still have a River dispute. So what, you could say…

But No…

This particular issue between Karnataka and Tamil nadu has had a nasty habit of turning out into linguistic and sectarian violence between the speakers of Kannada and Tamil speaking languages themselves in the past and there have been exodus of affected people from either state whenever this issue has thus been stirred up.

Even the infamous forest bandit Veerappan had some axe to grind on this issue which unfortunately encompasses more related thorny inter-state and cultural issues than the simple technical matter of water-sharing figures decided by a judicial authority.

What is both baffling and tragic is that certain people show their mean streak publicly and cause havoc which upsets the delicate fabric of a multi-lingual society.

The Tribunal has already permitted all the affected States that they can approach it for a review of its order but such peaceful and disciplined way of handling things have never been resorted to by either state Govt.

Somehow the Govts stand mute witness as rabble-rousers and separatists with their hidden agenda openly flame the passions on the sectarian lines provoking the other party to a street tussle which is totally uncalled for.

Karnataka has much to guard for.

Its diverse multi ethnic community, Bangalore’s Brand as a bustling IT-capital and a tourist haven as well as its reputation for tolerance and hospitality. It seems so silly to throw it all away for the sake of some narrow-minded agenda of Kannada Chaluvali or a Rakshana Vedike

Tamil nadu has no fewer stakes either. It has the same credentials of a multi ethnic society and has a thriving IT and automobile Industry on its soil besides being a Tourism-major state. It has so much to lose too if it goes the way of its neighbour in a ‘tit-for-tat’ policy.

Even though it looks unlikely whether a Review by the same tribunal (given that the same facts and figures will be available to it) or even by the Supreme Court could change the complexion of the final verdict drastically, that seems to be the only way for the State Govts to adopt. Not giving vent to passion on the streets or causing losses through unnecessary bandhs and road blockades.

The smaller stake holders like Kerala and Pondy too are advised to take constitutional steps and resolve the matter either through talks or review petitions without causing hardship to people at large.

One response to “Cauvery- The River of Dispute

  1. Well written. Impartial and rational.Have you noticed?Devegowda has been silent on this issue?He knows the facts but cannot say so publicly for fear of political losses for his party and for his son.I think the best strategy is for the Central Govt to allow all four States to file appeals and then take another 15 or 20 years to announce another verdict and while the matter is pending simply continue with the status quo and hope that the Rain God will be kind each year.In 20 years hopefully the present set of politicians would no longer be active and the new generation will have more important issues to debate and the tempers of the ordinary citizens will cool off.New schemes like rain water harvesting in areas outside the Cauvery basin could be initiated.Every one knows that the total amount of rain that falls on the Indian Land surface is several times more than we can put to use.Only some of it flows through rivers.Where is the rest going ? What are we doing about it?Could we not have mega schemes to channel this water into reservoirs, or the existing river networks to increase the TMC feet figures that everyone is now obsessed with?A country like Israel would not have allowed even a drop to be unutilized.We in India have more wealth in our water than all Arabia has in its oil.Oil will dry up one day.Indian Water is perennial.We should not be having a problem at all.But even if we do something in that direction, who knows, environmental activists may be up in arms and may oppose this solution. So while we have plenty of water theoretically, in practice we are starved. That is the real tragedy.Coming to the issue that is exercising our minds now, I feel inaction and indecision is some times good strategy. This is what Lal Bahadur Shastri and the Central Govt did in the case of the anti Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu in 1967. I lived through it as a fresh engineering college aspirant and was unable to go to REC Trichy where I had got admission, and instead opted to go to BITS Pilani even though it cost my father more than double in college fees and boarding and lodging expenses.What was the result of this strategy?The North Indians are happy that Hindi continues to be the so called national language and the Tamilians are happy that no one in Tamil Nadu is forced to learn it. After 40 years of allowing the issue to remain unresolved, today no one is talking about it.The UP wallas are now learning English and Tamilians who feel the need to know Hindi are learning it themselves outside their school curriculum. Hindi films are being screened in Tamilnadu and are not banned. The issue of sharing time slots on Doordarshan between Hindi channels and Tamil broadcasts is now a non issue due to the proliferation of Cable TV channels.Every one is happy and the language problem in India is now no longer a problem. Mind you, it was never solved. It simply vanished on its own.This vindicates my belief that some problems are best left unsolved.In the present case of Cauvery water sharing, as a political strategy, lip service can be paid to the issue and periodic noises can be made about finding a solution that is acceptable to all parties in the dispute.Such a solution in this case is clearly impossible and no one need feel guilty about his inability to find a solution.A solution in this case can be either a technically correct solution or a politically correct solution. It can’t be both.I therefore believe that this problem deserves this treatment and nothing more.Unpalatable and cynical views ?May be.I can think of nothing better.May be wiser and more intelligent people will solve this problem.I give up.Keep blogging.RegardsGV

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