The opposition parties in Tamil Nadu halted normalcy in the state by leading a bandh on April 6 and demanding the immediate constitution of Cauvery Management Board. Farmers’ groups in the state actively participated in the bandh, registering their protest in unique ways. Farmers in Trichy partially buried themselves in the sand on the banks of the Cauvery River. On April 7, nine political parties, led by main opposition DMK, have begun a rally across the districts in the state’s Cauvery basin further intensifying the agitation.
On February 16, the Supreme Court gave its verdict on the contentious Cauvery water sharing dispute, by awarding the four party states their annual shares – Tamil Nadu - 404.25 tmcft, Karnataka - 284.75 tmcft, Kerala - 30 tmcft and Puducherry - 7 tmcft. The court directed the central government to constitute a “scheme” for the implementation of the award within three weeks. Since then, Tamil Nadu’s farmers and politicians have been demanding the central government to act according to the judgment and constitute a Cauvery Management Board, an independent body which will effectively implement the court’s final order. However, the Narendra Modi led BJP government delayed settling the matter and when the specified time lapsed, the Centre approached the court asking for certain clarifications in the judgment and sought three months more time to implement the court’s order. On the other side, the Tamil Nadu government filed a ‘contempt’ petition against the Centre for not adhering to what the court had said. The apex court has admitted the contempt petition and the next hearing will be on April 9.
In its contempt petition, Tamil Nadu has accused the Centre of refusing to act to “protect the interests of the farmers and the larger interests of the State,” and appealed the apex court to “purge the contempt forthwith” such that the court’s judgment is implemented immediately. However, a closer look at the central government’s latest application with the court in this matter suggests that the dispute will not be settled any time soon.
The central government claimed that the four states – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry --
had divergent views over the framing of the ‘scheme’, which is not exactly the case. It is only Karnataka, which suggested the Centre on how the scheme should be framed. The remaining three states wanted the Supreme Court’s judgment to be followed.
The Centre’s appeal for an extended deadline of three months for the constitution of ‘scheme’, stating the Karnataka assembly elections which are due in May this year as the reason, will nonetheless compromise the interests of Tamil Nadu’s farmers, who are at the risk of losing one more crop season with the delay.