While Karnataka observes a Bandh today expressing its opposition to the decision of the Government to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu to protect the farming activities though this may jeopardize supply of drinking water to Mysore and Bangalore, Ms Kiran Mazumdar Shaw sitting in Delhi created a needless controversy by her insensitive remark that Bangalore has become Bandhalur.
Certainly, she is expressing her “Freedom of Expression” and is entitled to her views. In fact I also donot like any form of protest that inconveniences general public. I am aware that there are many in Bangalore who depend on hotels for their daily food supply and many vendors who live by the day and they all will find it difficult to manage the day.
But her insensitive remark was not peppered with any explanations and therefore the presumption is that she is only concerned with the inconvenience caused to her business and not to the plight of the farmers in Karnataka and the perennial problem in the Cauvery water distribution.
Supreme Court losing Credibility
Many would point out that The Government was only following Supreme Court directive and hence there was no option for the Government but to release water. But no body seems to remember that this Supreme Court verdict is based on an earlier Tribunal award and involves only a clerical interpretation of the award. It is therefore incorrect to provide any sanctity of a “Judicial Wisdom” involved in this verdict.
People in Karnataka have also noted that the same Supreme Court has so far not found any time to express its judgement on the “Clerical Error” committed by a High Court Judge who acquitted Ms J.Jayalalitha in the disproportionate asset case.
How is it that the Supreme Court is quick to provide its clerical interpretation in the implementation of the Cauvery Tribunal award while it cannot find time to total a table containing 20 arithmetic values found in a published judgement?
This situation has given an impression to the Karnataka people that the Supreme Court is not fair in dealing this Karnataka vs Tamil Nadu issue and only favours Tamil Nadu and even ignores corruption cases against J Jayalalitha because she represents Tamil Nadu. Otherwise most would have expected her to be disqualified to be the CM of Tamil Nadu. People in Karnataka think that she is still the CM of TN and raising the Cauvery issue because to the special favour shown to her by Supreme Court in not taking up her disproportionate asset case expeditiously.
I hope that this is only speculation and public perception and not the reality. But this is the perception which Supreme Court has to live with. Unless the Registrar of Supreme Court or the CJI comes up with a valid explanation for the delay, validity of this perception cannot be denied.
In view of the above, the Supreme Court verdict regarding Cauvery does not carry the required respect amongst the ordinary people in Karnataka and this sort of judgement will only devalue the respect that the highest judicial authority in the country should normally enjoy. I hope the Supreme Court understands this when it meets again on Monday for a review.
This is not the first time that Supreme Court deals with such issues where the literal law on paper may be different from the Justice that a majority of people perceive. It has happened in the Ram Janmabhoomi case as well. It has the capability to raise above clerical interpretations and go to the basis of the law on sharing of interstate river waters.
Should Mr Nariman Continue?
Now forgetting the Supreme Court judges who donot have any emotional need to support the people of the State where Cauvery takes birth, we can focus on what this Congress Government is doing and what the Opposition parties are doing.
It is stated that the Counsel of Karnataka gave an affidavit on behalf of the State that it will release 10000 cusecs of water per day in a previous hearing without consulting the Siddaramaiah Government. Based on this Supreme Court ordered release of 15000 cusecs per day. I donot understand how the Advocate could take such a decision without the tacit approval of the Government. The Government’s views cannot be relegated to the advocate without question.
Just for this reason, it would have been understandable if Karnataka Government had removed Mr Nariman and appointed an alternate counsel to take its case forward.
Failure of Political Parties
But Siddaramaiah does not seem to be concerned. He is acting like the most law abiding citizen of the country trying to follow the order of the Court though it may hurt the local people. Local politicians like Ramya and Ambarish are no where to be seen. S.M Krishna and others are also silent because they want to blame Siddaramaiah on a later day.
The opposition which participated in the all party meeting also did not come out in support of the people for their own limitations and political considerations. Mr Yeddyurappa or Ananthkumar are in no position today to do anything that may displease J.Jayalalitha because she cleverly uses her clout to reject the GST law to browbeat BJP.
Just as the Huriyat leaders are pampered in J&K, BJP keeps pampering JJ and she knows that as long as she keeps opposing BJP’s bid to get the GST through, she can blackmail the Central Government as much as necessary.
Can there be a new Political party in Karnataka?
Unfortunately there is no other political party in Karnataka that can stand upto the regional needs. In fact we need a Navjotsingh Sidhu in Karnataka who can stand up for the rights of the State and take up both Cauvery and Mahadayi river issues for the benefit of the people of Karnataka. Such a party has the potential of defeating both Congress and BJP in the coming elections. But JDS is not equipped to take up this responsibility since it has other priorities and no foot print in North Karnataka. We want one leader each from South, North, Coastal and Bellary side to come together to form a new party that can take advantage of the political opportunity that this situation presents.
Everybody however is hoping that it will start raining soon and the situation gets defused as it happens year after year as the problem lingers on.
Unconscionable Contracts have become the Basis of Justice
The discussion on Cauvery does not end without pointing out that the root cause for the problem lies in the Cauvery Tribunal Award which was faulty. It placed emphasis on the earlier two agreements of 1892 and 1924 both of which were struck in the pre independence day where the powerful Madras based British Government was negotiating with the relatively weak Mysore Maharaja.
These agreements were typical “unconscionable” contracts which can be considered as void as per the Supreme Court judgement itself.
But neither Mr Nariman nor the Karnataka Government has tried to question the validity of the Tribunal award because it was based on the two earlier agreements.
when the 1924 agreement ended in 1974 most ordinary people in Karnataka thought that they are now free to use Cauvery waters as per the rights they should be normally entitled to as if there was no prior agreements. But they were surprised when TN started arguing, we have already created so much irrigated land and if water is not supplied, our farmers would be affected.
This “Fait accompli” argument is what the Tribunal gave weight to declare that TN is entitled to more water than Karnataka. This is perceived as an injustice to Karnataka which is asking for more equitable distribution.
The Bandh therefore will have popular public support despite the voices of Kiran Mazumdar and the situation will recur in future years also.
Zero Based Rethinking on Inter State River water distribution is required
Instead of making fun of the situation, I think Ms Kiran Mazumdar uses her resources to get a comprehensive debate on how interstate river water is shared on a zero based thought process without giving weightage to the past utilization of the river waters which happened because of the inequitable influences wielded by different States.
(I take note that Ms Kiran Mazumdar Shaw has since clarified that she only suggested a peaceful dispute resolution and did not have any intention of disrespecting farmer’s problems. The clarification is welcome.)