Political parties urge Karnataka government not to release water

Bengaluru, Oct 1 (IANS) In a rare show of unity, opposition parties on Saturday once again urged the Karnataka government not to release Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu even if it meant disobeying the Supreme Court’s fresh order.

“We have told the Chief Minister (Siddaramaiah) not to release water at any cost and abide by the state legislature’s unanimous resolution to retain it only for drinking purpose,” said opposition leader and former BJP Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar after a three-hour long all-party meeting here on the contentious issue.

A division bench of the apex court on Friday directed the state to release 6,000 cusecs per day to Tamil Nadu for six days from October 1-6.

“There is no question of releasing water any more. We are with the government on this issue as unanimously decided by the state legislature last week (September 23) in the interests of the people,” said Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy.

Asserting that the opposition parties were with the ruling Congress in upholding the resolution, JD-S lawmaker Y.S.V. Dutta told the media that the opposition leaders were even ready to go to jail with the chief minister if the Supreme Court sent them there for not obeying its order.

“Let not the Supreme Court take only the Chief Minister to task. We are ready to share the blame for disrespecting its order again. First of all, where is the water to release for irrigation when whatever we have is not sufficient to meet the drinking needs of the people in the region till June next,” reiterated Dutta.

Deficit monsoon rains in the catchment areas depleted the storage levels in the four reservoirs across the river basin to an all-time low of 27 tmc (thousand million cubic) feet, which is barely sufficient for supplying drinking water to the people in cities, towns and villages in the state’s southern region.

“We have urged the government to file a review petition on Monday, seeking to modify the court’s September 30 order, as the state does not have water to release for irrigation in Tamil Nadu at the cost of supplying it for drinking purpose to our people in the region,” Shettar said.

Opposition members of Parliament and the state legislature told the Chief Minister that they were keen to file affidavits, asking the top court to penalise them as well for being a party to the decision against releasing the water.

“The opposition leaders have reiterated their earlier stand against releasing water and sought modification of the apex court’s order. We will consider their views and suggestions at the cabinet meeting and decide on the next course of action keeping in view the interests of the people,” state Home Minister G. Parameshwara said.

In a related development, JD-S leader and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda resorted to a hunger strike at the Mahatma Gandhi statue outside the state’s secretariat in support of the people, including farmers in the region who have been protesting against release of depleted water resources.

“The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) should step in at least now in the interest of the people in both the states. We are not against giving water to Tamil Nadu if the reservoirs had enough of it to share. As drinking water is a priority, we have to ensure that we have enough of it for supplying to our people till the onset of the next monsoon, as the Cauvery is a heavily rain-dependent river,” said Gowda.