Fresh deadline on Cauvery

Kashmir Times. Dated: 4/13/2018 12:28:12 PM

The central government has to devise a viable Cauvery scheme for distribution of water and stop disruptive protests in South India

The NDA-government does not appear to be serious in resolving the dispute in the distribution of Cauvery river water among the South Indian states. The delay on the part of the centre has led to disruptive protests in Tamil Nadu on this issue and has been demanding more water share during the dry season for its farmers. It has to be understood that the centre cannot continue to evade its legal and moral obligation to create a mechanism to implement the Supreme Court's final verdict in the Cauvery dispute. This was the broad and clear message conveyed by the court on early this week when it admonished the central government for failing to frame a scheme within the six-week time limit given earlier. For the centre, it was embarrassing to be asked to demonstrate its bona fides by submitting a draft scheme for the court's consideration by May 3. The highest court's frustration was evident, as the Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India was surprised and disappointed that the centre had not put a scheme in place or sought an early clarification. This has happened despite the fact that centre has been holding out assurances to this effect besides expressing its willingness to devise a scheme to the satisfaction of the South Indian states. It is obvious that a decree on the sharing of water requires a mechanism to give effect to it. It is an evasion of responsibility on the centre's part to set off a round of litigation just to determine the nature of such a mechanism. At the same time, it is easy to understand the reluctance of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the centre. It clearly fears that framing a scheme may adversely affect its prospects in Karnataka, which goes to the polls next month. In the conflict between duty and electoral considerations, the BJP has chosen the latter without caring for the interests of the farming fraternity in Tamil Nadu. The farmers from Tamil Nadu have been forced to hold demonstrations in New Delhi in support of their demands besides seeking compensation for the crop loss suffered by them due to shortage of irrigation water from Cauvery water share.
It is a matter of satisfaction for the farmers from Tamil Nadu that the Supreme Court has indicated that it will pass a binding order soon in the event of delay in formulation of Cauvery scheme by the central government. The centre should redeem itself by complying with the latest order. Meanwhile, the ambiguity over whether 'scheme' refers to or differs from the 'Cauvery Management Board' envisaged in the Cauvery Tribunal's order has caused great disturbance and anger in Tamil Nadu. This raises the question whether the court should have allowed an element of ambiguity in its judgment by referring to a 'scheme', while not expressly modifying the portion of the Cauvery Tribunal's order that talks of a 'Cauvery Management Board' and a 'Cauvery Water Regulation Committee'. This is why even the court's appeal for peace has not assuaged sentiments in Tamil Nadu, where tempers are soaring in some quarters. It is unfortunate that a fringe has taken centre stage, focussing almost their entire protest on the on-going Indian Premier League cricket tournament. As a political tactic, threatening a hugely popular cricket tournament is bound to attract national attention. If this is what some of the protestors wanted, then they have succeeded in their objective, even if this has come at the cost of some disruption. However, targeting the IPL by some of the protestors is irrational. If the premise is that fun and entertainment are inappropriate in this time of crisis, why should the protestors pick on one tournament alone? Moreover, IPL matches have nothing to do with the Cauvery dispute besides the fact that they have nothing to with either the central or the state government. At this juncture, choosing a soft target may bring high visibility, but it makes no sense to mix a serious inter-state water sharing dispute with sport and entertainment at least not in a disruptive and violent manner. The centre will well if it moves forward and puts in place the Cauvery scheme at the earliest to resolve the dispute in a peaceful and fair manner to avoid disruptions.

 

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