Karnataka must immediately release 6.000 cusecs of water from the River Cauvery to neighbouring Tamil Nadu for three days, the Supreme Court said today.
The dispute over the Cauvery has this month impelled violence in Karnataka, frequent disruptions of Bengaluru’s famous software companies, and several court hearings. The top court has given the centre time till Friday to bring the Chief Ministers of the warring states together in a meeting.
Yesterday, Karnataka said that it cannot release 6,000 cusecs of water daily for a week, as ordered on September 20 by the Supreme Court. With its cities in danger of running out of drinking water, Karnataka argued, it can next spare water for its neighbour only in December. But judges have ordered that for the next three days , Karnataka must comply with its order while they consider its arguments, which will be heard again tomorrow.
The court also rebuked Karnataka pointing out that Maharashtra, “not a neighbouring state”, which pitched in when Chennai ran into a drinking water crisis. “This is how federalism works,” the judges said, reprimanding Karnataka for not being a team player.
How to divide the water of the River Cauvery, which originates in Karnataka but flows into Tamil Nadu, has locked the southern states in hostility for decades. But the latest escalation began on September 5 when the Supreme Court agreed that Tamil Nadu should, for 10 days, get more water than it had been receiving to help its farmers.
The Karnataka government, headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress, reluctantly obeyed the order, but riots erupted in the capital city of Bengaluru, known as India’s Silicon Valley, and in and around other major cities like Mysuru. Two people were killed in Bengaluru and Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued an appeal for calm.
The main highway between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka turned into a no-go area; bus services between the states were suspended. Tamil cable channels were blacked out in Karnataka and police cars and buses were set on fire, leading to the arrest of nearly 200 protestors.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who has been unwell, held a meeting at the hospital where she is admitted, with ministers and top officials today. She has deputed the state’s Public Works Department minister Eapadi Palanisamy to attend a meeting in her stead with Karnataka chief minister Siddaramiah that has been ordered by the Supreme Court.