Politics

Cauvery Water Dispute: Karnataka Bandh Cripples Normal Life in Bengaluru

Mysuru: A scene at a road following a protest by Kannada activists against the Supreme Court's verdict on Cauvery water issue in Mysuru on Thursday. Credit: PTI

Mysuru: A scene at a road following a protest by Kannada activists against the Supreme Court’s verdict on Cauvery water issue in Mysuru on Thursday. Credit: PTI

The dawn-to-dusk bandh in Karnataka has stalled normal life in Bengaluru as well as other areas of the state. The bandh, which was called by pro-Kannada outfits to protest against the Supreme Court’s direction to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, has severely affected the state.

Officials in the state government rightly predicted that the bandh’s wide support from political parties, unions and several other organisations would ensure it was a “total bandh.”  On Thursday, chief minister Siddaramaiah implied the Karnataka’s government’s tacit support for the bandh in a statement to the press, “The state government has resolved not to oppose the bandh. Schools and colleges will be closed and almost all government offices are likely to shut down as attendance is expected to be thin,” according to Times of India

Opposition parties – the BJP and the JD(S) – have lent their support to the bandh along with auto-rickshaw and cab unions. The city remains paralysed as no mode of transport is running today. No auto-rickshaws, cabs or government buses can be found on the roads. Bengaluru’s metro has suspended functioning for the day.

People travelling to and from the airport have been left stranded with no means of commuting available to them. Police even arrested a few activists from pro-Karnataka organisations who tried to enter the departure terminal of the Kempegowda International Airport and the railway station in Bengaluru. Times of India reported that Southwestern Railways had not cancelled any trains but would take a call if there were any forced disruptions to train services.

Acting on the lack of transportation, educational institutions declared Friday a holiday and will remain closed for the day. Attendance at government offices is also low as employees were informed that it was not “compulsory” to come to work today. Private companies have either declared the day off or encouraged their employees to work from home.

Apart from transport, banks, petrol pumps, hotels, malls and other commercial establishments are also closed for the day.

Karnataka Cable Operators Association has decided to express its support for the bandh and the pro-Karnataka stance by refusing to air any Tamil TV channels.

Across the state

Other than Bengaluru, other parts of Karnataka are also experiencing the effects of the bandh including Mandya, Mysuru, Ballari, Koppala, Chikkaballapura, Dharwad and Kolar.

In Mandya, the epicentre of the Cauvery protests, agitators have blocked the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway at several places.

A section of farmers in the district staged a protest by walking into the river carrying stones on their head.

In Ballari, protestors stoned three lorries bearing Tamil Nadu registration plates.

Security measures

This is Karnataka’s second bandh in a week and the fourth one this year. Chief minister Siddaramiah has appealed for peace and said no damage should be caused to public property during the bandh.

The government has taken elaborate measures in order to maintain law and order in the state. Police said the government has deployed extra forces –  two companies each from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, one from Maharashtra and 10 from the central forces are currently in Karnataka. Times of India reported that approximately 25,000 police personnel will be present in Bengaluru to maintain peace.

The Cauvery row erupted after the Supreme Court on Monday directed Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water, from the Cauvery to Tamil Nadu, for the next 10 days to address the plight of farmers there.

Subsequently, on September 6, Karnataka released the Cauvery water against the backdrop of growing protests by Karnataka’s farmers.

The Karnataka government has stated that it will approach the apex court, seeking modification of its order. Karnataka has faced difficulties in implementing the SC’s order, given that the live storage capacity of the four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin has been 46.7 TMC ft compared to their total capacity of 104 TMC ft.