With protests intensifying over the release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu and bandh being called on the issue, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday said his government will not curtail them, but underlined the importance of maintenance of peace.
The Chief Minister also said the state government will place its argument more forcefully before the Supreme Court on the issue, when it next comes up for hearing, and is committed to protecting the interest of the state.
While some farmers’ outfits have called for ‘Bengaluru bandh’ on Tuesday on the Cauvery issue, several Kannada outfits, under the banner ‘Kannada Okkuta’ led by Kannada activists Vatal Nagaraj have called for state-wide bandh on September 29.
”We had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the orders of the Cauvery Water Management Authority, and Regulation Committee. The court rejected our partition, also Tamil Nadu’s. They (TN) initially sought 24,000 cusecs, then 7,200 cusecs, we said we can’t even give 5,000 cusecs, as there is no water,” Siddaramaiah said.
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Speaking to reporters here, he said, ”The Apex Court did not accept it, and the matter is coming before the Court on September 26. We will place our argument more forcefully.” Responding to a question on protests and bandhs being called on the Cauvery issue, the CM said, ”in a democracy, we (government) will not curtail protests, but BJP and JD(S) is trying to do politics on the issue.” To a query on BJP and JD(S) asking the government to resign and go, he said, ”…they are doing politics, what else will they say, they did not say it during the all party meeting.” The Supreme Court on September 21 refused to interfere with the order of the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) which endorsed the directions of the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) to the Karnataka government to release 5,000 cusecs (cubic foot per second) of water to Tamil Nadu for 15 days from September 13.
Karnataka has been maintaining that it is not in a position to release water, taking into account its own need for drinking water and irrigation for standing crops in the Cauvery basin areas, as there has been water scarcity due to deficit monsoon rains.
Noting that the government will do everything in the interest of the state, as protecting the land, its water and language is a priority, Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar said, ”We will not try to control the protests, but peace has to be maintained and people should not face any difficulty.” Addressing media here, he said, protest is everyone’s right in a democracy and it will not be curtailed.
”Our party people too called and spoke to me about the protest, I said, it’s your right and protect it…but one has to understand about court orders before calling for protests or bandh, just giving such calls for media publicity is not right, as such calls may have legal repercussions,” he said, adding that keeping everything in mind, let them decide.
Noting that due to slight rains in some regions in the last couple of days, the inflow has been slightly better, Shivakumar, who is also the Water Resources Minister said, the government has also discussed the possibility of cloud seeding, and there have been two-three types of opinion on it.
”But, it will be difficult to release water in the days ahead,” he cautioned.
To another question whether the bandh calls will have legal repercussions on Karnataka’s case in the court, Shivakumar said, ”as a Minister I’m unable to say anything, as I have to respect the Court, and also safeguard the people. My situation and that of the government is like — catch 22 situation, between the devil and the deep blue sea.” Whatever it is, the government will have to protect the interest of the state, he said. ”it is our bounden duty.” If the public doesn’t cooperate, the bandh will not have any value, said Shivakumar, citing alleged lack of consensus among the organisations on the bandh call, and two bandhs being called. ”The government will not interfere in it.”