Interview with K.S. Puttanniah, president, Rajya Raitha Sangha.
FOR Karnataka, the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal may be like a curate's egg: some gains and some losses. But while the State government has been guarded in its initial reaction, preferring to wait until the fine print of the award is assiduously studied, farmer organisations, irrigation experts and politicians of various hues have said that the award is unfair to Karnataka. The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, which has for a long time, though not always pragmatically or successfully, been championing the cause of Karnataka's farmers, has also voiced its displeasure. Its president, K.S. Puttanniah, said the award was a "worrying development".
Puttanniah, who is also a member of the Committee of the `Cauvery family', a representative group of farmers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka who have been working together for a lasting solution to the dispute, spoke to Frontline on the award. Excerpts from the interview.
What is the substance of your opposition to the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal?
The 270 tmc ft of water allocated to Karnataka is meagre. Karnataka should be given at least 350 to 360 tmc ft of water. What guidelines have they used to allocate this water to us? The Tribunal had no guidelines. They have not asked the farmers about the consumption [of water]. They should have taken into account the various kinds of water uses - irrigation, industrial, drinking, and so on. Even the kind of soil in the region should have been taken into consideration. You cannot settle the sharing of water using mathematical formulae. Ground realities have to be looked at. It would be better if the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu sat together and decided how to use the water.
Do you see any gains in the final award for Karnataka, vis-a-vis the interim award?
None. The final award is just a zerox copy of the interim award, which had also done a lot of injustice to Karnataka. The award is also not clear on the distress formula that is to be adopted.What is your next step going to be?
I am yet to study the sub-clauses of the final award. Even the Karnataka government has not read the full report. However, irrigation and legal experts are of the opinion that Karnataka should approach both the Tribunal and the Supreme Court, challenging the award. The government is yet to decide on what it should do. The ball is in the court's court.Is the Tribunal's award not final?
Let us see. This is a very delicate matter. In a federal system of government, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have to live together and solve the Cauvery problem. Senior politicians like H.D. Deve Gowda, M. Karunanidhi and Nanje Gowda were supposed to meet and discuss the issue. Unfortunately, the Tribunal gave its verdict before this could happen.
Can the `Cauvery family' play a role in cooling emotional outbursts in the two States?
We can't do anything. It is now in the hands of politicians. Let us see which State goes to the [hospital] ward first over the award. (Laughs)
The final award, unlike the interim award, places no cap on the extent of irrigated command area in Karnataka. Is this not a gain for the State, which had termed the interim award's capping of its command area at 11.2 lakh acres an injustice?
Let us see. But you must understand that while Tamil Nadu farmers enjoy the benefit of two monsoons [north-east and south-west], Karnataka farmers have only one. Farmers in both States plant crops in June/July when the south-west monsoon is in full swing.
The final award has been given after a long wait of 16 years. Don't you think that it would be better to accept it graciously and get on?Why should we when it is unfair to us?
Will it not be better to augment storage facilities in both States instead of constantly bickering?
But for that you should first have a fair solution. But, yes, it is true that both States do not have adequate storage facilities. All our dams are small. The two governments should think of how best to use the water. There have been no plans either from the State governments or the Centre.