NEW DELHI: Hours after the Supreme Court asked Karnataka to explain the defiance of its orders to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, the state assembly authorised the government to take an “appropriate decision”, clearing the decks for the release of water. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also stressed on the importance of having to obey the Supreme Court in a federal structure.
- The resolution asked the state government to assess its needs for drinking purposes. Then keeping in mind the interest of crops and irrigation and interest of the state, the government will be asked to take required action.
- Karnataka has twice in recent weeks ignored the Supreme Court’s decree to give water to Tamil Nadu for its farmers.
- Headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the Karnataka government says it’s not ignoring Supreme Court orders, but is bound by the state legislature’s decision to release water from the Cauvery basin only for drinking water needs.
- Karnataka claims that its major metros including capital Bengaluru barely have enough water to meet the needs of residents. It says it can give water to Tamil Nadu next in November, not before then.
- None of this has held with the Supreme Court which has said that while it deliberates upon the dispute, Tamil Nadu farmers must get more water from the River Cauvery, which originates in Karnataka and flows into Tamil Nadu.
- The court had last week asked the centre to set up a Cauvery Water Management Board whose experts were to travel to both states to assess their needs.
- Today, the centre said it cannot create this board and needs the authorisation of parliament to set up the new committee. When asked why it did not disclose this earlier, the centre said “it was a mistake.”
- Tamil Nadu wants the board to be created. Karnataka does not – it is concerned about its reservoirs (four on the River Cauvery) being exposed to experts who could disagree from its assessment and declarations of its need for water resources.
- Tamil Nadu has derided the centre for claiming it cannot set up the board, and has accused it of siding with Karnataka because it hopes to displace the Congress government there in the next state election, which is due soon.
- Early in September, Karnataka’s release of water impelled riots in Bengaluru and other cities. Police cars and buses were set on fire. Two people died. The border between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, frequently crossed by buses and commuters who live in one state but work in the other, remains tense.