KARNATAKA

Govt. cannot disobey SC order

Bangalore Oct. 5. With the Supreme Court making it explicit that the State should implement the Cauvery River Authority's order of September 8 unless it is reviewed, the Government will now have to convince the agitators in Mandya and Mysore districts that it cannot disobey the highest court of the land.

The Supreme Court might not be infallible, but its word is final the agitators have to be convinced. It is the agitation that forced the Government to go back on its earlier decision to implement the September 8 order of the CRA. On September 19, the Government decided against implementing the CRA order citing sporadic violence in the Cauvery basin districts. The suicide committed by a gram panchayat member in the Kabini Reservoir forced the decision.

The only meeting the Government has convened with the leaders of the agitation in Mandya and Mysore districts so far was on September 11. Several factors, including local political rivalries and attempts to improve upon the political prospects of individual leaders or outfits in the troubled waters of the Cauvery, are involved in the agitation. As the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, hails from the district, it is natural that the agitation has in some ways taken the pro- and anti-Krishna forms.

For long the view has grown that the Cauvery waters belong to Mandya District and those of the Kabini (earlier called Kapila) to Mysore District. That was how, in 1978, the people of Mandya District had protested against the construction of the Varuna or the right bank canal of the Krishnarajasagar Dam meant to irrigate Mysore District fearing that the water available for irrigating the lands in the district would be reduced. The then Chief Minister, D. Devaraj Urs, who belonged to Mysore District, showed political grit of a high order to go ahead with the Varuna canal project, which should have been laid in the Twenties or Thirties but got delayed. Only the left bank canal (Visvesvaraya, first named after the Viceroy, Lord Irwin) was built due to financial constraints and the once barren district of Mandya benefited. The separate district of Mandya itself was created after the Krishnarajasagar Dam was built. The Chief Minister, Mr. Krishna's father, S.C. Mallaiah, was one of those responsible for the creation of Mandya District from the erstwhile Mysore District.

It is of interest that leaders of the separate Kodagu State movement want the people of the district to be given the benefit of the Cauvery, which takes its birth in the district. They have demanded a report from the Government on the extent of the benefit derived from the river by the Cauvery basin districts.

In the past, agitations in Mandya District and the blocking of the Bangalore-Mysore highway have bulldozed the government to change its decisions. In 1985, the Ramakrishna Hegde government yielded to the blocking of the highway and rejected the report of the Second Karnataka Backward Classes Commission headed by T. Venkataswamy. A section of the people had protested against their exclusion from the list of OBCs by the commission. A government order to please everyone was issued by Mr. Hegde.

Karnataka is once again pinning its hopes on the Cauvery River Authority to scale down the quantum of water to be released to Tamil Nadu contained in its September 8 directive.

The Government has realised the utility of the CRA which came to its rescue last month by reducing the quantum of water to be released — 1.25 tmcft — as directed by the Supreme Court on September 3. The Government has the CRA to fall back upon, which those of the past did not have, thanks to the August 1998 Cauvery accord signed by the then Chief Minister, J.H. Patel, and his then Tamil Nadu counterpart, M. Karunanidhi, in the presence of the Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee. It is another thing that the State unit of the Janata Dal (United), to which J.H. Patel belonged, is against adhering to the directive of the CRA.

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