Cauvery: A woeful tale of a river

Published Sep 8, 2016, 7:18 am IST
Updated Sep 8, 2016, 7:25 am IST
The current Cauvery agitation lacks a leader of the caliber of Prof. M.D. Nanjundaswamy.
The Cauvery dispute which began in 1892 is not even close to being solved over a hundred years later.
 The Cauvery dispute which began in 1892 is not even close to being solved over a hundred years later.

The Cauvery dispute which began in 1892 is not even close to being solved over a hundred years later. K’taka has suffered due to SC tribunal ruling in 2007 which stipulates that the state give 192 tmcft of water to TN. Farmers miss a leader like M.D. Nanjundaswamy. DC analyses the situation...

One leader the agitating farmers of Mandya sorely miss is Prof. M.D. Nanjundaswamy or MDN as he was popularly known. One of the founders of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, MDN was the voice of lakhs of farmers across the state especially those in the Cauvery basin.



One call by Prof. MDN was enough to cut off Mandya district from the rest of the state with farmers stopping both road and rail services. His strong links with the farming community helped him bend any government as per his will. His dawn to dusk bandhs used to be total and no police officer would dare to touch any farmer let alone wield lathis to disperse crowds.

Read | Guest column: A vexing issue compounded by massive water shortage

Unfortunately, the current Cauvery agitation lacks a leader of the caliber of MDN. With almost every farmer leader identifying himself with a political party, the farmer's movement has taken a back seat especially in Mandya. Though, former Mandya Lok Sabha member, Mr G Madegowda has been fighting for the cause, he is too old to actively involve himself in the stir. But, he has still been raising his voice for the cause of the farming community under the banner of Mandya Zilla Raitha Hitarakshana Samithi.


Old-timers in Mandya told Deccan Chronicle that every farmer leader groomed by MDN has either joined other parties or launched their own outfit. There is no leader in the district to match the charisma of MDN. Splinter groups of farmer organisations are holding protests but there is not much impact on the government. Bank officials used to think twice before going entering any village to seize the property of crop loan defaulters earlier with MDN  putting up notice boards in all villages warning officers not to enter villages. The chief minister used to consult MDN whenever the state faced problems over release of water to TN.

Prof. Nanjundaswamy had a green beacon on his car and refused to remove it despite directions from the police department. He was available to farmers round the clock.

Second day running, no buses to Tamil Nadu
The city on Tuesday continued to reel under protests against a Supreme Court order asking Karnataka to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. Farmers and members of Kannada organisations, including Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and Janapara Vedike, protested at different places.

Hundreds of protesters at the Mysuru Bank Circle burnt effigies of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. The protesters demanded that the government protect the interest of Karnataka farmers. Tension gripped Majestic for sometime in the afternoon after some KRV activists barged into the City Railway Station and staged a rail roko. They blocked Brindavan Express heading to Chennai and tried to vandalise the train. After a vain attempt to convince the protesters, the police resorted to a mild lathi-charge.  As farmers continued to block the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway, many passengers were stranded at the Satellite Bus Station on Mysuru Road. Activists protested at Attibele toll gate on Hosur Road and even wrote letters smeared in blood stating that Cauvery belongs to them.


Drinking water to be a challenge
With the recent Supreme Court order the Karnataka Government has been forced to release Cauvery water for irrigation in Tamil Nadu, while a big question mark remains as to how it will cater to the drinking water needs of its three cities that depend on the river. Recently Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the state has only about 50 TMC feet of water in all four reservoirs in Cauvery basin, while it needs 40 TMC feet for drinking water itself.

The consistent stand of the Karnataka before the Supreme Court, Cauvery River Authority and Supervisory Committee replacing the Cauvery River Authority for implementation of order of the Tribunal has been that the during distress years it should consider the inflows to the reservoirs of Karnataka, contribution of water in the intermediate catchment below Karnataka reservoirs up to Biligundlu, northeast monsoon rainfall in the lower part of the basin extensively benefiting the state of Tamil Nadu, Northeast monsoon rainfall in the Cauvery delta in TN, ground water level and so on. 

Another Friday, another bandh
Friday's Karnataka bandh is expected to bring the state to a standstill. Around 1,450 organisations will be extending their support to the bandhcall. But it is the schools and colleges and daily wage workers who will bear the brunt of the closure.


According to the principals of several city schools, this year a series of bandhs has  already crippled academic activities and one more bandh means more of the same. "We are getting ready for mid- term examinations. Students are now under immense pressure because of the repeated bandh calls.. We are also clueless over whether to declare a holiday or not. As our children are using autos and cabs to travel, we cannot put their lives at risk by not announcing a holiday. It is a tricky situation," explained a principal.

But Karnataka Associated Managements of English Medium Schools (KAMS) general secretary Mr. D Shashikumar informed that the organisation has extended full support to the bandh. "We will hold special classes onSaturdays to ensure that students will not lose any class hours," he said.

Meanwhile, Friday's bandh call has received support from around 1,450 organisations, including truck owners and drivers, BMTC and KSRTC staff unions. "Except milk, hospital and emergency ambulance services, all other services are expected to be shut down,” said a Kannada activist. "To ensure that our demand will reach the union government, we want cancellation of all the airport services,” he explained.

Kannada activists deface KSRTC buses 
For the second day, bus services to various parts of Tamil Nadu (except Chennai), Mysuru, Mandya, Chamarajanagar and Ooty were cancelled due to the Cauvery protests across the Bengaluru-Mysuru road.But KSRTC, TNRTC as well as private operators, operated all buses towards Chennai city as per the schdule.

According to the KSRTC and TNRTC officials, various intra state bus services were cancelled due to the fear of violence. "We are operating only Chennai buses. Buses towards Mysuru, Mandya and  areas of Tamil Nadu were cancelled due to the fear of violence,” said an officer from KSRTC.

According to officials, on Tuesday night, even though KSRTC decided to operate night buses to Mandya and Mysuru, all the schedules were cancelled as there were no passengers. "As protests resumed in the morning we decided against plying any buses," he added. Meanwhile, private operators as well as KSRTC and TNRTC operated Chennai buses.

"There were no reports of violence from Hosuru or Chennai. So all the bus schedules are running as they are supposed to," said Mr. Rajesh Singh, a private bus operator. Meanwhile, TNRTC’s Bengaluru office staff sent 12 buses parked in KSRTC Mysore Road Satellite Bus Terminus to Chennai with security on Tuesday night. These buses were blackened by Kannada activists on Tuesday evening. "We will not operate any buses to the city till the situation returns to normalcy," said a staffer.

Heavy losses: According to the KSRTC officials, due to the ongoing violence over Cauvery water, the transport corporation is suffering a minimum of Rs. 1 crore revenue loss. "Last month the wages of all our staff were revised. This revenue loss will create more problems for the corporation. Friday's bandh is expected to result in the loss of another 20 crores," he informed.


  • 1892: The beginning of the dispute when Madras Presidency and the Princely state of Mysore had to come to terms with dividing the river water.
  • 1924: An agreement was signed between the two states
  • 1974: The 1924 agreement lapsed
  • 1972: Central government stepped in while agreeing to appoint a committee who would collect statistics from each of the states that had the Cauvery river basin — Karnataka, TN and Kerala
  • 1986: TN farmers approached SC demanding for a tribunal.
  • 1990: After hearing, SC directed the two states to finalise negotiations. Eventually SC directed the Centre to constitute a tribunal and distribute the water between states. Later Centre notifies Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT).
  • 1991: Tribunal gave its award directing Karnataka to ensure that 205 tmcft reach Tamil Nadu every year.
  • 1991: Later in an interim award Karnataka was ordered to release 205 tmcft.
  • 1991: The Interim award is published in the Government of India gazette.
  • 1993: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa goes on a fast demanding the Tamil Nadu's share of water as stipulated by the interim order.
  • 1995: With Karnataka recording low rainfall, it failed to oblige the order following which Tamil Nadu approached the SC demanding release of 30 tmcft of water. SC asked the then prime minister PV Narsimha Rao, to intervene in the matter. Rao met with the chiefs of the two states and recommended a solution which was complied by the two states.
  • 1998: The Cauvery River Authority (CRA) was formed with the prime minister presiding as the chairperson and the chief ministers of the four states as members.
  • 2007: Final order by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. The tribunal held valid the agreements of 1892 and 1924 executed between the government of Madras and Mysore. Karnataka protested the tribunal award and observed a state-wide bandh.
  • 2013: The centre notified the final award of the CWDT. The government was mandated to constitute the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) with the gazette notification of the final award of the Tribunal.

Location: India, Karnataka