In a move that may further accentuate the legal issue over the dispute on Cauvery water sharing between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the former signalled its inability to spare Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. As per the Supreme Court order, Karnataka was bound to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu.
The move came in a special session of the Karnataka Assembly and Legislative council on Friday, called in by the Siddaramaiah government for this very purpose.
“An impossible situation wherein it is not possible to comply with a court (order) has been created,” Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said as both the houses adopted unanimous resolution to use the water only to meet drinking water needs and not to provide it for any other purpose.
The resolution, however, did not refer to the apex Court direction to the state to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu from September 21 to 27 but is expected to put Karnataka on a collision course with the judiciary.
Though Siddaramaiah stressed that “nobody should construe as if we are challenging the Supreme Court,” he added “people have given us a mandate. We cannot defy it… otherwise it would be a dereliction of duty on our part.”
“We have great respect for the judiciary. The intention is not to disobey the judicial order. We will not think of it even in our dreams,” the Chief Minister said as the resolution highlighted that the interests of the inhabitants of the state are likely to be gravely jeopardised if water in the four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin was in anyway reduced other than for meeting the drinking water needs of the people in the Cauvery basin, including the entire city of Bengaluru.
The resolution, moved by Opposition BJP leader Jagadish Shettar and YSV Datta of JDS pointed out that the combined storage in four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin — Krishnaraja Sagar, Hemavathy, Harangi and Kabini — had reached “alarmingly low levels at 27 TMC ft.”
“It is now resolved to direct that in this state of acute distress, it is imperative that the government ensures that no water from the present storages be drawn save and except for meeting drinking water requirements of villages and towns in the Cauvery basin and Bengaluru,” the resolution read.
The Congress party, which is ruling the state government in Karnataka, too threw its weight behind the resolution adopted by Karnataka Assembly.
“Discussions taken up in the Assembly are part of the democratic process…I don’t think it is constitutionally wrong…You cannot give which you don’t have…If it is not, there is a problem,” party spokesman Tom Vadakkan told reporters.
The emotive issue has already led to tension in the state with Bengaluru bearing the brunt of violent protest last week following the Supreme Court’s first order on September 5 asking Karnataka to share river waters with Tamil Nadu.
In the latest order, pronounced after several modification pleas moved by Karnataka government to reduce the quantum of share, the Supreme Court on September 20 directed Karnataka to share 6,000 cusecs from September 21 to 27 as Tamil Nadu pressed for water to save its samba paddy crop.
But the Karnataka cabinet decided to defer the release of water and convene the legislature session.