Karnataka has twice in recent weeks ignored the Supreme Court’s decree to give water to Tamil Nadu for its farmers.
Headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the Karnataka government says it’s not ignoring Supreme Court orders, but must first meet the needs of its own farmers and metros including capital Bengaluru which are on the verge of running short of drinking water.
On Monday night, Irrigation Minister MB Patil said that some water will be released for farmers in Karnataka and across the border. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that the interests of the state will be protected, while also stressing that it’s important to obey the Supreme Court.
The decision taken by Karnataka on Monday is seen as a token gesture and one to avoid further angering the top court which has said that Tamil Nadu farmers must get more water from the River Cauvery, which originates in Karnataka and flows into Tamil Nadu.
The court had last week asked the centre to set up a Cauvery Water Management Board whose experts were to travel to both states to assess their needs.
The centre yesterday said it cannot create this board and needs the authorisation of parliament to set up the new committee. When asked why it did not disclose this earlier, the centre said “it was a mistake.”
Tamil Nadu wants the board to be created. Karnataka does not – it is concerned about its reservoirs (four on the River Cauvery) being exposed to experts who could disagree from its assessment and declarations of its need for water resources.
Tamil Nadu has derided the centre for claiming it cannot set up the board, and has accused it of siding with Karnataka because it hopes to displace the Congress government there in the next state election, which is due soon.
Early in September, Karnataka’s release of water impelled riots in Bengaluru and other cities. Cars and buses were set on fire. Two people died. The border between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, frequently crossed by buses and commuters who live in one state but work in the other, remains tense.
In 2007, a tribunal set up by the Supreme Court decided how the water from the River Cauvery should be shared between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and the states of Kerala and Puducherry. All four states have challenged the share assigned to them.