The Cauvery dispute requires a political solution more than a legal solution, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said.
In an interview to RK Radhakrishanan for Frontline magazine, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah says that it is his “firm belief” that the dispute requires a political solution and also Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention, as he is the head of the federation. “It has been my firm conviction that more than a legal solution, this dispute requires to be given a political solution,” he told Frontline.
The Frontline interview has come at a time when the Supreme Court has ordered the release of water to Tamil Nadu, even after the Karnataka legislature passed a unanimous resolution to draw water from the reservoirs on the Cauvery only for supply of drinking water.
The primary concern of the state government, Siddarmaiah told Frontline, is meeting the drinking water needs of Mandya, Mysuru, Bengaluru and over 5,000 villages and towns until January 2017.
Future plans would be decided only after the apex court hears appeals filed by the state challenging the decision of the Cauvery Tribunal in 2007.
In the interview, Siddaramaiah says that the two state governments can initiate talks, but a beginning had to be made and that “beginning has to be at the initiative of the Prime Minister as he is the head of the federation”.
“It is regrettable that leave alone intercede, we have not been able to persuade the Prime Minister of the day to even receive a delegation of Karnataka’s leaders who wish to make submissions to their Prime Minister,” Siddaramaiah said.
Although both the Congress and JD(S) are in favour of the intervention of the Prime Minister, the BJP, to which the Prime Minister belongs, has been vociferously against the idea. Even after the latest Supreme Court order, the BJP’s Karnataka president BS Yeddyurappa lost no opportunity in reiterating this position.
Siddaramaiah also said that the state government has been seeking the PM’s intervention in both Cauvery and Mahadayi river disputes.
He said that there was a precedent to the PM’s intervention in an inter-state river dispute. “…In the Cauvery dispute, [Prime Ministers] P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh received delegations and tried to settle disputes to the best of their abilities….”
He also gave the example of Indira Gandhi, who during her tenure, mediated between Maharashtra, Karnataka, and undivided Andhra Pradesh to allocate a certain quantum of water to supply drinking water to Chennai, even though Tamil Nadu is not a riparian state.
Siddaramaiah had also mentioned this during his speech in the Assembly on the day the state legislatures passed the resolution on the Cauvery.
On the Inter-State Council’s initiative in 2007-08 to explore solutions, Siddaramaiah said that regular meetings could have smoothened some problems that the states have repeatedly faced.
Asked if Karnataka government was inviting contempt charges for non-implementation of the last two orders, Siddaramaiah said, “…As you know, the release of water when severe distress exists is an extremely emotive issue and several parts of both States have been wrecked by violence. We have been largely successful in ensuring that law and order is maintained, but several intellectuals and legal luminaries have questioned the wisdom of the court varying the order of the Supervisory Committee, particularly since the Supreme Court has no technical assistance whatsoever….”
Siddaramaiah said that the 1924 agreement between the Madras Presidency and the Mysore kingdom, had influenced the final award, due to which, Tamil Nadu got the “lion’s share of the water”.
“…However, we do feel that there are some other issues, such as leaving out two-thirds of Bengaluru city from consideration for allocation because it does not fall within the Cauvery basin, and the non-reckoning of the long water resource [groundwater] of Tamil Nadu despite the finding by the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal that it was to the extent of 20 tmc ft. These and some other issues are central to Karnataka’s case before the Supreme Court,” he added.
Siddaramaiah said that tensions in the state have simmered down and the government has taken all confidence-building measures to ensure safety. The chief minister said that the state government is reaching out to people through social media and keep them informed of any disturbances.