Bengaluru Bandh: Mixed Response to Cauvery Water Release Protest

Bengaluru Bandh: Mixed Response to Cauvery Water Release Protest

The Bengaluru bandh, organized by farmers and Kannada organizations and supported by the BJP and JD(S) in opposition to the release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu, witnessed a mixed response on Tuesday. While most public services continued to function normally, there were fewer people venturing out.

The 'Karnataka Jala Samrakshana Samiti,' a coalition of farmers' associations and various organizations led by farmer leader Kuruburu Shanthakumar, had called for a day-long shutdown in Bengaluru from 6 am to 6 pm.

Numerous activists from Kannada organizations were detained by the police at Town Hall as they gathered to conduct a protest. Leaders among the farmers and Kannada activists criticized the government for resorting to police intervention to suppress the protests and the shutdown.

Farmers and pro-Kannada organizations were expected to stage a protest at Freedom Park, a designated place for such demonstrations.

Security measures, including the deployment of about 100 platoons, were taken by city police to address potential violence during the protests. Bengaluru Police Commissioner B Dayananda announced that prohibitory orders under Section 144 were in effect across the city from midnight on Monday to midnight on Tuesday in response to the bandh.

Bengaluru Urban district deputy commissioner Dayananda K A declared a holiday for all schools and colleges in the city on Tuesday. Although cab services, autos, hotels, and restaurants operated, they reported a lower number of customers. A similar trend was observed with Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses and Metro rail services, as there was less rush at bus and metro stations. Ola-Uber Drivers' Association and Hotel Owners' Association supported the September 29 Karnataka bandh, citing financial difficulties in losing two days of work.

Most private companies and firms, including those in the IT sector, instructed their employees to work from home. Some malls in the city remained closed, and many shops and establishments did not operate as usual in the morning.

Protests persisted in various parts of Karnataka after the Supreme Court refused to interfere with orders from the Cauvery Water Management Authority and Regulation Committee, directing the state to release 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu. Farmers' organizations and pro-Kannada outfits expressed their anger and urged the state government not to release water to Tamil Nadu in Cauvery river basin districts like Mysuru, Mandya, Chamarajanagara, Ramanagara, Bengaluru, and others.

Karnataka's argument was that it could not release water due to its own need for drinking water and irrigation for crops in the Cauvery basin areas, citing water scarcity caused by deficient monsoon rains.

The dispute arises from the Supreme Court's refusal to interfere with the Cauvery Water Management Authority's order directing Karnataka to release 5,000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu until September 27. Karnataka is obligated to release 123.14 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu between June and September according to the 2018 Supreme Court verdict. However, this year, Karnataka has released only 40 TMC of water until September 23, citing a water crisis.

In August, Tamil Nadu approached the Cauvery Water Management Authority to secure normal water supplies. It was noted that Karnataka had released only 30.252 TMC of water from June 1 to August 28, significantly less than the usual 80.451 TMC in a typical year. The CWMA initially ordered the release of around 13 TMC of water for 15 days at a rate of 12,000 cusecs per day, lower than Tamil Nadu's request for 25,000 cusecs per day. Later, the CWMA and CWRC reduced the release to 5,000 cusecs per day.

Both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka appealed to the Supreme Court, challenging the CWMA's directives. However, on September 21, the Supreme Court upheld the order for Karnataka to release 5,000 cusecs of water until September 26. Karnataka has expressed its commitment to comply with the Supreme Court's directive until September 26, after which it will assess the situation.

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