TAMIL NADU

Mandya farmers unrelenting

MYSORE OCT. 5. There was no let up in the farmers' agitation in Mandya where a self-imposed bandh was observed on Saturday despite the Karnataka Cabinet's decision not to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

Efforts to damage the railway track near Pandavapura were foiled by the police. Road and rail services were suspended, and the busy Bangalore-Mysore highway was deserted, as vehicles were not allowed to enter Mandya. The Bangalore-Mysore route via Malavalli and Bannur too remained out of bounds for motorists as the farmers set up road blocks on all major highways.

Movement of vehicles within Mandya was also affected as the farmers burnt tyres on several roads, and groups of protesters staged rasta roko on the highways. As a result, hundreds of people were seen walking on the highways to reach their destinations.

Meanwhile, the Southern Railway (Mysore Division) suspended all trains towards Bangalore, the Hassan-Arsikere and Chamarajanagar sections as a precautionary measure. Personnel of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) have been deployed in large numbers at the Mandya Railway Station.

The decision to suspend operations on Arsikere and Chamarajanagar sections was taken following Friday evening's incident at Hanakere between Mandya and Maddur, where a mob stormed the station and set ablaze the diesel engine of the Mysore-Hazrath Nizamuddin Swarna Jayanti Express, badly damaging the locomotive.

"Train services have been suspended in all the three sections based on intelligence reports that railway property could come under attack once again as tempers continue to run high in the region and the police could not assure the safe passage of trains," said a senior railway official.

The Swarna Jayanti Express resumed its onward journey from Hanakere late on Friday night sans most of the passengers, and it subsequently left for New Delhi from Bangalore.

Arrangements were made to clear passengers who were stranded midway following the disruption of train services.

The worst affected were the daily commuters between Mysore and Bangalore, many of whom were unable to go to their places of work following the cancellation of trains. More than 1,000 people commute between the two cities, while there are as many people commuting by train from Mandya, Maddur, Channapatna and Ramanagaram.

The disruption in train services also affected long-distance passengers who had booked their tickets in advance from Mysore. While a sizeable percentage of passengers cancelled their journey, others took a detour to reach Bangalore via Hassan and Bellur Crossing.

The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) too cancelled services to Bangalore. Even the rural services to Mandya were suspended leaving hundreds of passengers and daily commuters stranded. However, a few buses were operated to Bangalore via Holenarsipura.

In Srirangapatna, farmers entered the river to protest against the Supreme Court's ruling to release water to Tamil Nadu. There was heavy security at the Krishnarajasagar dam where farmers have been keeping vigil for the past one month to prevent the authorities from releasing water during night. However, there was no untoward incident at the dam site.

A group of farmers said the vigil and dharna would continue as they had lost faith in the Government's assurance that water would not be released to Tamil Nadu. "The Government has taken a decision against releasing water but similar decisions were taken in the past and yet water was released. Only a review of its earlier orders by the Cauvery River Authority will satisfy us and nothing less," the farmers said.

In Mysore, the District Cauvery Action Committee observed a "black day" to protest against the apex court's directive to the State to comply with the CRA's ruling. The activists took out a silent procession from the Town Hall to K.R. Circle wearing a black badge. Hundreds of farmers gathered at the Kabini Reservoir and stood vigil at the dam site to prevent the release of water to Tamil Nadu.

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