In the long running dispute over the distribution of Cauvery river water between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court on Friday announced its verdict; the Karnataka government must release 177.25 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu from the Biligundlu dam.The apex court also mentioned that Karnataka will get an enhanced share of 14.75 TMC of water per year while the Tamil Nadu’s share will be lowered from what was previously allotted by the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal in 2007. The increase in share for Karnataka was made with the reasoning that 10 TMC of groundwater and 4.75 TMC of drinking water were required for the residents of Bengaluru.
On hearing the verdict, actor Kamal Haasan said he was shocked by the reduction in allotment of water to Tamil Nadu. He did request politicians from politicizing the issue further. In a column for The Print, Chennai based political analyst Kalyan Raman states that the verdict could boost the political prospects of Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth – “With the feeling of having been shortchanged already creeping in, the setback will be seen as yet another instance of the present AIADMK government’s failure to protect the interests of the state”. The verdict is seen as a moral victory for Karnataka and a blow to the current AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu. The consolation is the courts’ direction to the central government to set up a Cauvery Management Board which Karnataka and the centre opposed. “Rajinikanth’s only reaction to the Cauvery issue has been that the people of the two states should settle the issue amicably. Tamil nationalists groups and parties on the fringes will not hesitate to ask him to choose between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka”. In the wake of the verdict, Vikatan reported that a small group of protestors took to the streets to show their anger against the verdict in the Karur district of Tamil Nadu; which is one of the delta districts and where the Cauvery river runs through. For the farmers here, they depend on Cauvery water for their paddy crops and are now in danger of that supply being cut off. Earlier this month, GK Vasan of the Tamil Manila Congress (TMC) accused the BJP and Congress of jointly preventing the release of Cauvery water to the state. The Cauvery Farmers Protection Association general secretary S.Dhanapalan stated that the verdict is a blow to the state and will affect irrigation on almost one lakh acres. He pointed out that the central government has been hesitant on forming a Cauvery Management board. The Cauvery Management Board will assess the inflows and distribution of water across the states. The board was ordered to be formed by the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal. The board will have a chairman and three full time members and other part time members from Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. DMK leader MK Stalin condemned the verdict and criticized Chief Minister Palaniswami and his government of not doing enough in the fight and representing the state and its interests by not submitting appropriate evidence in the Supreme Court. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah may views this verdict as s shot in the arm. In a column for News18, journalist DP Satish states that though the verdict does not satisfy all the interested parties, the Congress may be able to use the verdict to their advantage in campaigning in the Cauvery belt districts – “The SC upholding state capital Bengaluru’s rights over the Cauvery water has come as a huge relief for the government. The IT city with its 11 million population depends mostly on Cauvery for its drinking water requirements”. “Politically, the judgment does not seem to be good for the main opposition BJP and the third player JDS, which is a dominant party in the Cauvery region. Since Karnataka has managed to get 14.75 TMC ft of extra water, they can’t go after the Congress”. The judgment has essentially termed inter-state rivers as national assets and no single state can claim ownership over it. There have been no protests in Karnataka over the verdict shows the state is happy. The secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Association stated that Tamil Nadu needs to improve its water management system coupled with the verdict it could benefit the state in the long run.
More columns by Varun Sukumar