In their meeting today to discuss the Cauvery issue, the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka must endeavour to redress the grievance of the poor farmer
It is heartening that the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are to meet today for talks on the Cauvery River issue. The Supreme Court has directed the talks be held. The order of the Supreme Court has to be obeyed because that is the law of the land as stated under Article 141 of the Constitution.
I was associated for two years with the Cauvery issue as law officer. There were elaborate discussions between the two States —Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
After all the deliberations, Karnataka would take the stand that the agreement between the then Maharaja of Mysore and the British government was not binding on it.
In its counter, the Tamil Nadu government would say the Successor (Karnataka government) was legally bound to renew the same agreement. I vividly recall how rigid the stands of the two States were.
Then the Tamil Nadu government filed an Original Suit in the Supreme Court, setting out all the details and how just its stand was. Unfortunately, the suit came to be withdrawn. The parties were advised to resume the talks. By then, the feelings in both States were simmering. Once politics entered, nothing useful emerged. As days passed by, the parties hardened their stands.
In 1989 when I was the Acting Governor of Karnataka, I thought a reasonable solution could be hammered out as the circumstances were conducive.
‘Think of the farmer’
Mr. Veerandra Patil was the Chief Minister. I found that in him, the old obstinacy had disappeared; his attitude was more congenial. I appealed to him: the Cauvery is a great boon to both States; why should it not be shared between both? It is farmers who are suffering because of the stand-off. The whole granary of Tamil Nadu would be dry soon, and would result in national loss.
Mr. Patil was receptive. He told me: “I have full faith in you — whatever you suggest I will accept.”
I asked him to arrange for a meeting between him and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. It was so arranged, a large delegation was to come from Tamil Nadu to Bangalore.
A lunch was arranged at Ashoka Hotel. I jocularly remarked that this would deny the Governor an opportunity to host the Chief Ministers and the delegations.
His polite reply was, “Sir, in such an event, you could host a high tea.” A tea was arranged at Raj Bhavan. Unfortunately, the meeting did not take place. The differences between the two States continue. Political events have clouded the talks. No longer is it a matter between the two States as the masses have taken over.
I sincerely hope that when they meet on Thursday, the two Chief Ministers can arrive at a reasonable solution. The endeavour be to redress the grievance of the poor farmer and do justice to him.
(Justice S. Mohan is a former Supreme Court judge.)