On Friday the Supreme Court declared its judgement on a 125-year-old ‘Cauvery water dispute’. The ruling is in the favour of Karnataka & against Tamil Nadu. Let’s look in detail how Cauvery verdict will impact the upcoming Karnataka assembly elections 2018. Here is what Cauveri verdict is –
Supreme court has reduced Tamil Nadu’s share of water from the river Cauvery that is from 192 TMC or thousand million cubic feet to 177.25 TMC, rising Karnataka’s share by 14.75tmcft that is from 270tmcft to 284.75tmcft.
A historic verdict which has changed the political dynamics of the two most important states of South India, raising questions like;- Is it a victory stroke for Congress, which will retain its regime in Karnataka? Or it will benefit BJP in the upcoming elections? What will be Tamil Nadu’s future steps? Will it be a fodder for newly grown ‘filmy’ leaders in Tamil Nadu?
What is Cauvery water dispute all about?
Cauvery covers a large expanse of lands in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and also smaller areas in Kerala and Puducherry. Initially, the dispute was between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu but later Kerala and Puducherry also entered in the tussle. The issue dates back to 1892 when an agreement was filed between Madras Presidency and Mysore for arbitration but led to a fresh set of disputes. Later, attempts were renewed to arbitrate between the two states under the supervision of Government of India and a second agreement was signed in 1924. As Kerala and Puducherry also laid claim on a share of Cauvery water, a Fact Finding Committee was set-up in 1970 to figure out the situation on the ground. The committee submitted its report in 1972 and further studies were done by expert committee and the states reached an agreement in 1976. However, after a new government came to power in Tamil Nadu, it refused to give a consent to terms of an agreement paving way for further dispute.
In 1986, Tamil Nadu government appealed the Central government to constitute a tribunal for solving the issue under Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, thus Cauvery Waters Tribunal was constituted on June 2, 1990. After 16 years of hearing and an interim order, the Tribunal announced its final order in 2007 allocating 419 tmc ft water to Tamil Nadu and 270 tmc ft to Karnataka. Kerala was given 30 tmc ft and Puducherry got 7 tmc ft. The Tribunal had come to a conclusion that total availability of water in Cauvery basin stood at 740 tmc ft. However, both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka filed a review petition before the Tribunal. From then, the issue of releasing the pronounced amount of water went on & on.
In 2013 Supreme Court directed the Centre to set up a panel to supervise the Cauvery water release, the series of review petitions, the agreement – disagreement, violence & nuisance kept on going in both the states. And the latest ruling by Supreme Court has curtailed the amount of water allocated to Tamil Nadu which has been jovial news for Karnataka whereas an ominous news across the Tamil state. One of the points which are worth noticing is that, that Supreme Court usually had rulings in favour of Tamil Nadu as the share of land covered by Cauvery river in Tamil Nadu is 43,856 square kilometers & 34,273 square kilometers in Karnataka, rest 2,866 square kilometers in Kerala and 160 square kilometers in Puducherry. Also, Karnataka has two major rivers like Tungabhadra & Krishna flowing through its territory which supports the states. But this is the first time where Supreme Court has curtailed the quantity of Cauvery water allocated to the state.
What is the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Cauvery water dispute, declared on February 16, 2018?
The Supreme Court ordered Karnataka to have 14.75tmc additional share in Cauvery water, after saying one state cannot claim ownership over a river. Karnataka will be distributing 4.75 TMC from this 14.75tmc just for Bengaluru city alone. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud had on 20 September last year reserved the verdict on the appeals filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala against the 2007 award of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) on sharing of water.
Supreme court also addressed that “drinking water has to be kept on the highest pedestal”. The top court said that
Bengaluru’s needs as a “global city” were important and hence allotted 4.75 TMC of drinking water to it, In fact, Karnataka government has given the same reason in their petition. Whereas Kerala & Puducherry will be continuing with the same amount allocated to them previously.
This verdict is fair or not is a matter of law, political & public discussion but one thing is sure that it will have a huge impact on the lives of people living in these two states. Let’s examine the advantages & disadvantages of this verdict on both the states. Starting with Karnataka, which is celebrating this verdict as a victory remark for the state & its people.
How will Cauvery verdict impact Karnataka assembly elections 2018?
The average annual rainfall in Karnataka is 1248 mm. The Coastal Karnataka receives an average annual rainfall of 3456 mm which makes it one of the rainiest regions in the country, as this coastal region lies under the ‘western ghats’. The large mountains of western ghats act as barriers, which do not allow the monsoon to cross the western ghats & hence the region beyond the ghats remain water deficient & crates water crises in the interior (major) part of the state.
The economy of Karnataka is mainly agrarian and most of it is dependent on the rainfall; mainly the southwest monsoon. The extent of arid land in the state is second only to Rajasthan. Only 26.5% of the sown area (30,900 km²) is subjected to irrigation and hence the rest of the cultivated land is entirely dependent on rainfall. Rainfall also influences the quantity of water available in the rivers which in turn influences the amount of drinking water available to the population and the amount of electricity that can be generated in the hydroelectric power stations in the state.
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Rainfall is also crucial to recharging the depleting groundwater and Karnataka has come up with innovative methods like rainwater harvesting in order to solve the drinking water scarcity in the state, as it is also facing a huge crisis of groundwater depletion.
According to 2011 census, Karnataka’s total population is 61,130,704 & ranks on 8th position in terms of population in India & Bengaluru, also known as ‘the silicon valley of India’, alone consist 8,728,906 population.
The demographic distribution in Karnataka region is mainly in its semi-arid areas which increase the scarcity of water in the region. But after the Cauvery verdict, this situation seems to improve. As it will facilitate both the local residents & farmers of Karnataka, especially in Bengaluru.
Although this increment won’t be able to fulfill the needs of Karnataka completely, Siddaramaiah’s government is looking forward to using it judicially. looking from a political perspective, the Cauvery verdict could not have come at a better time as this, for Siddaramaiah’s government. The Supreme Court’s decision to increase the state’s share of water, and provide special relief to capital Bengaluru is a relief for the senior Congress leader and might just boost his prospects in assembly elections later this year.
The Cauvery basin accounts for 60 seats of the 224 seats in the assembly. The Congress won 30 of these in 2013. Siddaramaiah is vying for re-election on a plank of farmer welfare and overall development. Former chief minister and BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa called for a plan to utilise the increased quantum of water in a judicious manner. “Supreme Court’s verdict on the Cauvery is welcome and will help our farmers and ease Bengaluru’s drinking water problem.” So Karnataka Congress will surely have an upper hand in the upcoming assembly elections.
How will the Cauvery Verdict impact Tamizh farmer’s lives and what are the political gains?
Now let’s talk about the crises which will be created in Tamil Nadu after this verdict. The annual rainfall of Tamil Nadu is about 945 mm of which 48% is from the northeast monsoon, and 32% through the south-west monsoon. Since the state is entirely dependent on rains for recharging its water resources, monsoon failures lead to acute water scarcity and severe drought. It lies beyond the western ghats which block major share of monsoonal rain hence it gets water supply mainly during winters.
Tamil Nadu also has its major land share falling under semi-arid & arid zones which makes it drought-prone area. According to the 2011 Indian census, Tamil Nadu had a population of 72,147,030 & ranks on 7th position in terms of population, in India. Tamil Nadu has historically been an agricultural state and is a leading producer of agricultural products in India. The total cultivated area in the State was 5.60 million hectares in 2009–10. The Cauvery delta region is known as the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu.
In terms of production, Tamil Nadu accounts for 10 percent in fruits and 6 percent in vegetables, in India. But the state is suffering from great agricultural crises. Last year, 170 farmers came to Jantar-Mantar to protest against the miserable conditions of Tamil farmers.
They came with real skeleton heads of farmers who lost their lives due to their poor condition, & went to the extent of drinking own urine to grab center’s attention, but all gone in vain.
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The monsoons have failed in Tamil Nadu for two years in a row. In January, the government declared a state-wide drought and released over Rs 2,000 crores in direct relief, the Madras High Court directed the state government to waive all cooperative farm loans irrespective of the size of landholdings of the farmers. Until then, the government had only written off loans to farmers with plots of less than five acres.
Last year more than 150 farmers committed suicide in Tamil Nadu. Not only drought is a big issue in the state, the flood is also a major reason of plight in Tamil Nadu, specifically Chennai which suffers from flood almost every year.
The Cauvery verdict seems to be a big curse on Tamil farmers, as the most fertile land of Tamil Nadu that is the basin of Cauvery & if the new judgment is regulated in the state, it will worsen the current situation in the state as it will increase the pressure on already depleted groundwater.
This verdict has also opened new doors of politics for newly rising politicians in the state. For decades the state politics is governed by regional parties like DMK & AIMDMK. After the demise of former Chief Minister, AIADMK supremo Miss.Jayalalitha, the state suffered from major political turmoils in the form of a split in AIMDMK. Also, the emergence of new ‘filmy political leaders’ can be seen. Famous stars Like Rajnikanth, Kamal Hassan have joined politics. This verdict seems to be a mega point which can create an anti-incumbency in the state. Also, the speculations are that even though, after the harsh protest by Tamilian farmers on Jantar-Mantar, the centre remained quite, in order to appease the Kannadigas as the assembly elections were already scheduled in Karnataka in 2018.
How the Cauvery verdict paved way for new horizons in Tamil-Kannada politics?
We can’t say the verdict is fair or unfair but one thing is for sure, that it is a historic verdict in the peninsula. It has changed political dynamics in both the states completely. In Karnataka, it has boosted the position of Congress & has intensified the fight between the two national parties that is Congress & BJP in the region. Whereas in Tamil Nadu which seems to have no big face after Jayalalitha & Karunanidhi, has got a window for new parties & fresh faces in regional politics. How far this verdict will serve the public interest is still doubted, but one thing is clear that it’s going to be a ‘political bait’ for many parties.