With Nargund in Gadag district as its epicenter, the protest demanding the implementation of the Mahadayi project for drinking water in northern Karnataka has now entered its 50th day.
While large parts of the state have been declared drought hit, people in four districts – Gadag, Dharwad, Bagalkot and Belagavi – are demanding that the project be implemented to augment drinking water supply in these four districts.
Although the project is popularly called the Mahadayi project, the people of these districts are actually demanding that a quantum of water from two tributaries of the Mahadayi river – Kalasa and Banduri – be transferred to the the Malaprabha river in Karnataka.
The project has been hanging fire for over a decade after it was first mooted. It was the SM Krishna government. Under the project, 200 tmc of water from the two tributaries of the Mahadayi would be transferred to the Malaprabha river, which supplies water to the three districts. The project was approved in 2002, but has not made much headway.
In the 1980s, farmers in Navalgund in Dharwad district and Nargund in Gadag district launched a movement against the government, demanding drinking water supply. It had first been recommended by SR Bommai after the then chief minister Gundu Rao appointed him as the head of a committee to look into the task.
Although the state has seen all three major political parties in power – Congress, BJP and JD(S) – in various combinations since then, the project has been reduced to little more than a means to obtain political mileage and as a metaphorical stick to beat then ruling party with.
In recent days, such developments have played out with the BJP’s K S Eshwarappa has been targeting the ruling Congress government over the “false promises” it has made to the people of the region.
The 50 day protest has been spear-headed by the Mahadayi Horata Samiti. The protesting farmers were joined by Kannada film actor Kiccha Sudeep who expressed support for the farmers’ demand for drinking water. Hundreds of people turned up to see Sudeep, who was seen sporting a scarf with red and yellow stripes, which are the colours of the Kannada language movement.