Posts Tagged ‘Cauvery’

If it’s summer, it’s time for a nice Cauvery row!

5 April 2012

The Cauvery as viewed through a fish-eye lens at the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) dam, near Mysore, in September 2011. Photo: Karnataka Photo News

ROHIT BATNI RAO writes from Bangalore: Come summer and the two south Indian states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, inevitably start the year’s quota of dialogue on Cauvery river water sharing and people get soaked in political arguments about water related negotiations and political engineering or the lack of them.

This has become a pattern etched in stone, with the two States repeatedly being pushed into the arena by the sheer failure of political machinery on all three sides of the table—the two riparian states and the Centre.

This year the cry heard in some Karnataka voices is the need for a national (river) water sharing policy stemming from an apparent belief that such a ‘national policy’ could magically uncoil the tension among riparian states just because a third party, the Union government, proclaiming itself to be just and equal, when given the funnel, will help direct the waters to the riparian states in a fair manner.

That is pure fiction.

Regardless of the fairness in this deal between States and the Union, these are the things that need to be deeply pondered about:

# (River) water sharing between states is a characteristically local problem, limited to the interests of the riparian states and the people within them directly influenced by the river waters. A solution to this had rather not come from outside of the problem domain for those would not really address the problem!

# The farther removed a government is that is arbitrating river water sharing between states, the little it can do to benefit the riparian states, and the lesser jsut and equal its policies and decisions come across to some of them. ‘The reason why this is so often the case is that bureaucrats and technicians base themselves mainly on political considerations external to the region in question: the needs of the local population rarely feature at all’ (pp 161). Hence the Union government which is further removed than the governments of the riparian states is much poorly disposed to do justice to these states. (In fact it is better disposed to favor either of the states over the other!)

# The strong adverse impact such remotely-designed policies bear on the hydrology of various river basins in question. Historical tribunals of such remote origins and their verdicts on river water sharing in India have proven this point amply.

Keen on catching up on this debate?

Here’s a trivia (along with my interpretation) I thought we’d rather help ourselves with before we dive-in, hoping it’ll expose whatever sense exists in this argument (about the consequences of a national river water sharing policy).

1.) The preamble to the Indian Constitution offers justice (social, economic and political) and equality (of status and of opportunity) to the citizens of India.

Literally interpreting: Among other things. the citizens of this republic are secured social, economic and political justice. Likewise, the citizens have also been secured their equality of status and of opportunity in this sovereign democratic republic.

2.) Item 56 of the Seventh Schedule of our constitution places regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys under the Union List. This officially strips the riparian states of their (otherwise natural) political right to regulation and development of the rivers flowing through the respective states.

How can political justice be secured by stripping one of the rights to govern oneself, to develop oneself?

3) Karnataka and Tamil Nadu elect 12 and 18 members to the Rajya Sabha respectively and to the Lok Sabha they elect 28 and 39 members respectively. Hence on every vote in Delhi, there are 17 extra Tamil Nadu voices roaring to mute us!

How can Karnataka’s equality of status ever be secured by such unequal representation at the Centre?

How can equality of opportunity be secured by a denial of one’s right to engage in constructive negotiations with neighboring Union members targeted at deriving mutual gains?

How can any government, removed from this list of members, secure this equality any better?

4) Article 262 of the same Constitution conveniently assumes the Centre (Union government) to be the responsible body to arbitrate disputes related to inter-state river water sharing. But it has been found in several occasions that the agreements and tribunals arrived and awarded by the centre have only provoked the States to execute massive reservoir projects purely driven by hoarding intentions laden with greed and fear.

Such greed and fear are a synthesis of non-federal siphoning of responsibilities from the States to the Centre, which is not better disposed than the states themselves to decide on matters of such immense local nature.

One instance of Andhra Pradesh describing river waters flowing into the sea as wastage (pp 331) is a clear indication of how such tribunals have bred greed & fear to dangerous proportions at the state level. Not only has this led to hydrological degradation of various river basins, but also led to intra-state conflicts  (pp 14) not unseen till then.

5) The battle between state and central politics complicates the equation.

A national party allying with local parties of either riparian state is inclined to pamper its ally state (TN for example) with a better deal in its tribunal thereby starving its own victorious state (Kar for eg.) of precious water, which is later lured with other political mirages like ministries and such other sihi-tindi (confectionery)!!

Of special importance in this context is the wide gap in quality of local political representation in Karnataka and Taminadu, with Karnataka falling severely short of good local representation, which in turn severely handicaps its ability to negotiate deals in Delhi.

These items vividly elucidate the reasons why central overruling on inter-state river water sharing could be hazardous to the river basin itself, and hence to the riparian states in question. But it is seriously dependent upon public education and political acumen and will-power in the system if strong cries have to rise, demanding decentralization of power with respect to inter-state river water sharing. Like someone said, the next big war in this world will be fought over water.

Let’s not sow such seeds that can only speed up this war crop!

Also read: Should Bollywood have a place in Mysore Dasara?

‘A magic, moving, living part of the very earth’

7 September 2011

Stillness and quiet on one side, and noise and tumult on the other. That’s the Cauvery at the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) dam, as viewed through a fish-eye lens, on Tuesday, after all the sluice gates were opened. (Click on the picture to view a larger frame.)

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear

3 January 2011

If Ramya Krishnan can be the brand ambassador for a “wet grinder”, why can’t a “face” promote products made by the sweat and toil of faceless artisans, commodification of women be damned?

That’s what the actress Roopashree does at an exhibition organised by the Karnataka state handicrafts development corporation, in Bangalore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News


Also view: One more example of commodification of women

Another example of commodification of women

Another example of commodification of examinations

Like, bombers get scared looking at bombshells?

Now, what will those fools do with these kids?

Surely all that glitters is more than just gold

The best ice-candy melts before nice eye-candy

What it takes to smoothen some rough blades of grass

Denims, diamonds, Miss India and the Mahatma

See, a brand ambassador always gets good press

How myopic netas have screwed us on Krishna

3 January 2011

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: When politicians as a tribe have failed the state, a quasi-judicial body like the River Water Disputes Tribunal has come as a saviour in safeguarding the interests of Karnataka in the Krishna waters’ dispute.

This in a nutshell sums up the net impact of the verdict given by the second Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT) headed by Justice Brajesh Kumar last week.

Uniformly inept policies pursued by successive governments of all political hues, including the present one, had cumulatively pushed Karnataka to the brink on the utilisation of waters of the Krishna river.

Everything appeared to be lost.

The State had failed to utilise its one-third share of water allocated by the first KWDT, even 10 years after the expiry of the deadline.

If the new tribunal had taken the (under) utilisation as the basis for the fresh allocation, Karnataka faced the prospects of losing around 250 tmcft and whatever extra that might have accrued in the later allocation of surplus water.

As a result, Karnataka would not have got a drop of water extra, which would have been the end of the road for the State as for as the irrigation development is concerned.

On top of this underutilistion, there was an overactive Andhra Pradesh, which had laid its claims for the unutilised water and, in anticipation of the same, had gone ahead with its plans to create permanent infrastructure created with huge investments.

In contrast, Karnataka’s plans to raise the raise the height of the biggest dam across the Krishna in Karnataka at Alamatti had been stymied by the Supreme Court.

It was a self-inflicted problem that Karnataka had invited, thanks to two men in power, H.D. Deve Gowda and J.H. Patel.

In their eagerness to humour the Telugu Desam chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, they had landed Karnataka in the soup. Naidu raised a hue and cry over Karnataka’s move to raise the height of the Alamatti dam to 534 meters.

Gowda, then the Prime Minister of the United Front government, of which Telugu Desam was an important component, referred the matter to the steering committee of the UF, instead of allowing the State government of Patel to handle the same. The steering committee constituted a four-member panel, which in turn constituted an expert committee.

The expert committee was given a red carpet treatment when it visited Karnataka. The plea made by H.K. Patil for boycotting the committee since its interest would be detrimental to the interests of Karnataka fell on deaf ears.  The expert committee recommended that the height of the dam should be pegged at 519 meters.

With the fall of the Deve Gowda government, no followup action was taken. But it came in handy when Supreme Court was hearing the case. The apex court adopted the expert panel’s recommendation to bar Karnataka from raising the height of the dam beyond 519 meters.

If this ban on the height were to be continued by the second KWDT, it would have been the end of the road of irrigation development in northern Karnataka since the ban would come in the way of storing the surplus water of Krishna as and when allocated.

Karnataka would have had no place to store water.

But the IInd KWDT has mercifully cleared Karnataka’s case for raising the height of the dam to 524 tmcft, providing Karnataka with the scope for storing surplus water.

The Krishna basin, spanning over more than thirteen districts and bulk of the drought prone areas in northern Karnataka, is the biggest basin in Karnataka, much more than Cauvery.

The basin area has the potential to turn Karnataka into a food granary with the proper exploitation of the irrigation potential of Krishna. But this has not happened due to the totally inept and slipshod handling of the issue by the successive state governments in Karnataka.

Nobody has been an exception to this, be it the Congress governments, the Janata Dal/Janata Dal U or the BJP/JDS coalitions, or the present BJP governments.

Barring a few individual leaders like the late S. Nijalingappa, Deve Gowda, the late H.M. Channabasappa, late H.N. Nanje Gowda and H.K. Patil, none who handled the portfolio had any semblance of understanding of the issue and its potential to change the fortunes of the State.

As a consequence of the follies of its rulers, Karnataka had missed the bus completely and was condemned to suffer and pay a heavy price. It is in this context that verdict of the IInd KWDT has brought cheer on the face of the farmers in Karnataka.

The tribunal has not only protected the allocation Karnataka had got despite its failure to utilise fully, it has not countenanced Andhra Pradesh’s claims for use of the unutilized waters and allocated more water to Karnataka from the surplus arising after the previous allocation.

This has resulted in Karnataka getting an overall allocation of 911 tmcft. The aspirations of the Karnataka farmers get a new lease of life.

Of all the people, it is the tribe of politicians of all hues who are extremely happy over the final allocation of share of Krishna waters. Because it has literally saved them from the consequences of an adverse verdict.

The people indeed are happy. But the happiness over the increased allocation and the removal of the ban on the height of the dam are nothing more than notional.

To use a Kannada adage, it is akin to the treasure visible in the mirror. You can see it, but you can’t touch it.

For the key factor is the expeditious utilisation of the allocated water. It is here that Karnataka has been faltering.  It has poor track record of execution of irrigation projects.

The politicians of Karnataka have shown that they lack vision and commitment and are not averse to politicising development issues at the drop of the hat.

After nearly four decades of the award being made by the Tribunal, the Karnataka has been able to impound around 500 tmcft. But not all the water available in the dam has been able to reach the farmers fields even to this day.

In this context, the task of utilising a total of 400 tmcft as a consequence of the judgment of the IInd Tribunal is a tall order by any standard. Very few doubt whether it will be able to utilise the water within the 40-year deadline fixed by the Second Tribunal.

There could yet be a slip between the cup and the lip.

From Subramanya Folly to Subramanya Revenge

24 June 2009

The decision of the B.S. Yediyurappa government to transfer the commissioner of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, S. Subramanya, has set tongues wagging.

Was it because of his “inappropriate” advice to the parents of Abhishek, the boy who was washed away? Or, because he had filed a defamation case against the Lok Ayukta, N. Santosh Hegde?

Or, was there some other reason like you-know-what?

The move has divided the rulers and the ruled. Good riddance say some, bad politics say others.



Don’t believe reports that our justly revered Subramanya is no longer the face, voice and soul of BBMP (Bada Bengaloorina Mukhya Pracharak). In the land where Indira was India, Subramanya is and shall always be BBMP.

Subramanya’s footprints cannot be erased, his legacy cannot be ignored.

For Bangaloreans, Subramanya is indestructible, imperishable, immortal.

True, Subramanya’s empire was not quite of Mughal proportions. But it did cover vast territories from Govindapura (which is somewhere in the Himalayas) all the way to Kengeri (somewhere near the Indian Ocean). Vast multitudes of people live in these territories. Among them there is not one man, one woman or one child whose life has not been touched and shaped by the genius of Subramanya.

Such has been the power of the Magic Boxes and the Tragic Hoaxes he invented.

A combined Akbarnama cum Babarnama will be required to record the major horizons he conquered during his short reign. Since no editor will allow the space required for such a compendium, let us confine ourselves to just one of his gifts to BB, the VIP road from Golf Club Circle to Mekhri Circle.

That short stretch of signal-free highway is a signal contribution by the visionary in Subramanya.

There used to be a police station at the Golf Club circle. In the lockup of this police station, a visiting lawyer was once beaten to death and his body dumped near the railway tracks. No doubt keeping that in mind, Subramanya had the police station demolished (yet another instance of the IAS correcting the wayward IPS).

Putting the opportunity to good use, another skill where the IAS excels, Subramanya also demolished the great-grandmother trees that had spread out majestically and made this area one of the coolest, most verdant spots in cool and verdant Bangalore. A great deal of fresh space was freed for traffic.

Of course there was no signal at the circle. There was no signal at the Windsor Manor Circle either. Between these circles Subramanya gave us a magnificent stretch of road making us feel like we were driving on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Unfortunately, at both ends of namma New Jersey Turnpike, traffic piled up in signal-free chaos. This was because of traffics unpatriotic habit of coming from different directions. The flow from one side has to stop for the flow from the other side to proceed.

How unreasonable!

This became quite a mess at the Windsor Manor circle. During rush hours, especially with KSRTC buses appropriating all the lanes, it was one big chaos. That is why citizens renamed the Windsor Manor Circle as Subramanya’s Folly. To enjoy it fully, go there in the evenings.

If you got past Subramanya’s Folly and thought that everything would now flow smoothly, you would have time to think again. For by the time you negotiate the Palace Guttahally Magic Hoax Flyover, you will resume your crawling pace, bumper to bumper. This is because the traffic has backed up from the Cauvery Circle a kilometre away.

Ah, the Cauvery Circle.

This is already in the Guinness Book as the world’s most stunning U-turn. You’ve got to see it to believe it. A straight road is suddenly made to turn left and then take a U-turn to reach the straight line again. What imagination! What originality! You should see the way the buses negotiate the U-turn and how all traffic pay homage to the planning genius as they move forward in slow motion.

Wonderstruck citizens have renamed the Cauvery Circle also. It is now known as Subramanya’s Revenge.

Look closely in the evening hours. You can see Subramanya on top of a flexboard hoarding, watching the tortuous muddle below and chuckling to himself about the unforgiving effectiveness of the punishment he has meted out to these goddamn Bangaloreans including meddlesome politicians and Lokayuktas.

The sheer genius behind the U-turn inventions has led to two marvelous developments.

First, Harvard Business School has taken it up as a case study. Second, the inventor is getting an international patent on the U-turn.

It does not matter where Subramanya is posted. Even if he is Secretary to the Department of Cockroaches, the twin glories of Subramanya’s Folly and Subramanya’s Revenge will keep him as the face, the voice and the soul of BBMP for ever.


Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Shame in the land of Krishna, Cauvery and Kabini

14 May 2008

Drinking water is the main issue before the people of Karnataka, as evidenced by one of the opinion polls, and as this woman pedalling to fetch a few buckets in K.R. Puram in Bangalore will vouch. But how many parties, and how many politicians, and how many anchors and analysts, are talking of it as the airwaves are grabbed by  amorphous and abstract formulations in the election season?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

What a martial race does when there’s no war

12 May 2008

Few sporting events in Karnataka, in India, in the world, can hold a candle in motive, in spirit, in atmosphere, to the hockey festival organised each summer between Coorgi (Kodava) families.

Part sport, part mall, part fashion parade, part talent hunt, part social glue, the tournament is a beautiful salute to sport from a beautiful people of a beautiful part of the world.

The 12th edition, for the Alamengada Cup this year, concluded today, 12 May 2008, in Ponnampet in Virajpet taluk, with the finals played between the Koothanda family and the Anjaparavanda family.

View a portfolio of 82 pictures here: Coorg Hockey

View a short YouTube video here: Koothanda vs Anjaparavanda

Below read an essay by Sugata Srinivasaraju of Outlook magazine on the 2005 tournament.



They charge towards the umpire when he blows the long whistle to declare a goal. For someone who is not entirely familiar with the Kodava (or Coorgi) hockey passion, it appears that the eleven hockey sticks will do the guy to death. But that does not happen. It turns out to be an incessant argument in incessant rain. Each time it happens the match-clock stops for a minimum of ten minutes. The longest break is for thirty-odd minutes when the Koothanda family team scores past the Nellamakkada family, 3-2, in the last fifteen minutes of the finals of the Kodava Families’ Hockey Festival. For the record, it is the world’s biggest hockey tournament.

We wonder why passions should run so high when this is just ‘festival’ hockey and no great championship? A neighbouring Mysorean who has been a regular at the festival since it began in 1997 explains the nuances involved: “The nation is too amorphous and even if you lose playing for it, it does not haunt you beyond a point. But it is completely different when you are defending your family pride, the shame is more immediate.”

Family pride and family identity is in fact at the core of this festival organised annually in the picturesque terraces of the coffee land. In the days of the coffee price depression, when this inward-looking community, almost clanish, started looking out to measure the vistas of the world, when it looked most distracted in centuries of its existence, a brilliant idea struck a man in his 60s, Padanda Kuttani Kuttappa, to re-fix the roving Kodava eyes and arrest the slipping ground. He invented the ethnic hockey festival. In the very first year, nearly 60 families registered themselves and the numbers swelled each year. In 2003 it touched 281, a world record of sorts which found its way into the Limca Book.

In 2004 the Maleyanda family which organised the fest expected the number of participating families to cross 300, but it did not happen due to certain ‘teething operational problems,’ only 236 families played the game and any given year there has been a guaranteed audience of 25,000 people.

The swelling numbers explain why corporates too have started taking interest in the fest. In 2001 Nike was involved and in 2004 a local tobacco company and Toyota supported the effort with a small grant. LG held a raffle draw with television and mobile phones as gifts.

The organising family needs around Rs 15 lakh to conduct the fest, which it raises by collecting donations from family members, anywhere between five and ten thousand. Participating families pool about 30,000 to meet expenses arising out of travel to the venue (which is generally the home-village of the organising family) uniforms for players, equipment costs etc.

The economics of the whole affair has been worked out to perfection.

Returning to pride, why did the Kodavas decide to play hockey to hold their ground? ‘Because that is what they know best,’ is how some would put it bluntly, but a more liberal interpretation would be, besides the pork curry and coffee, hockey is the only thing that is common to two per cent of the rich planters, eight per cent of medium to small planters and ninety per cent of poor Kodava farm labourers.

A good-humoured joke about the community that did the rounds some two decades back was: Kodava men joined the army or played hockey or joined the Bata Shoe Company as salesmen, because they were fair and dandy. Rum, of course, was another common element to all categories of Kodava men. The strong army connection comes from the fact that two top generals in the Indian Army were from Coorg: Field Marshal K M Cariappa and Gen Thimayya.

Surprisingly, both belonged to the Kodandera family, which also participated in the 2004 hockey fest. It may surprise outsiders, but Coorg has produced more than 40 hockey internationals and some of them like M.P. Ganesh and M.M. Somaiya have even captained the Indian team. Incidentally, the first international from Coorg, M.D. Muthappa, belongs to the Maleyanda family, 2004’s tournament organisers.

But strangely, Ganesh or Somaiya or the gifted goal-keeper A.B. Subbaiah become completely unfamiliar when they come to Coorg. Their first name familiarity with the outer world, gets drowned under the weight of their family names.

For instance, M P Ganesh, who is now the executive director of the Sports Authority of India, becomes Mollera Ganesh. A B Subbaiah turns Anjaparavanda Subbaiah. And the brilliant fullback and Olympian, C.S. Poonacha is Cheppudira Poonacha.

As if sucked back into their original community identity. “Into the womb of mother Cauvery,” as a lay Kodava emotionally put it bringing in the platitude personification of the river that has its origins in the coffee land.

At the finals of the Maleyanda Cup, it was not just the hockey greats present, there were also others who had made it big in other fields. South Indian actress Neravanda Prema, Davis Cupper Machanda Rohan Bopanna were among them. They had all left their cosmopolitan masks behind in Bangalore, Bombay or Delhi to be authentic local heroes. But their speeches in the Kodava language was a give away of their Anglicized transformation. If they did not come to this ethnic festival there was no threat of ex-communication, but there was always the fear of being excluded.

In many ways the story of the Kodavas is the familiar story of the New World. It is the same as the Irish tracking their family trees and their Gaelic roots. In fact the whole environment on May 23, 2005 was like the one in Dhaka on every February 21 (Ekushey February), the Mother Language Day, the day to which Bangladesh owes its existence.

“Part kermises, part festival of remembrance, both political statement and celebration,” writes British writer Jeremy Seabrook about Ekushey February.

Celebration and statement were both there at the hockey fest too, at Gargandur in Somwarpet: There was an ethnic food stall; men unabashedly consumed liquor before the final match began at 2 pm; a Kodava job agency had put up its banner; the 37 Medium Coorg Regiment, Madras Engineering Group and Border Scouts were there looking for talent; a woman cartoonist sold her “Still Hope Ammathi” T-shirts (a cheering Kodava phrase for the losing side); a clutch of planter-woman with their authentic coffee brew were there to zealously promote coffee as a ‘health drink’ and all amidst the din of nasal Kodava sounds. It was a shandy.

Amidst the celebration the statement was not forgotten, it was quietly tucked away in the souvenir that was circulated. It was a charter of demands before the Prime Minister by the Federation of Kodava Samajas: “The Fazal Ali Commission has observed in its report that Kodagu should be maintained as a separate identity. It also recommended the reservation of a Lok Sabha seat for Kodagu. Once the State of Kodagu was amalgamated with the State of Mysore the solemn assurance was ignored… culture and identity of the people undermined…,” it read. This should explain the separate statehood demand for Kodagu a decade ago.

The coffee land has been a RSS-BJP bastion. “No beef, only pork” is what a Kodava exclaimed at the food stall, energetically waving his family flag. Every participating family in the hockey fest have their own colours and flags. A common motif on these flags is a 1837 insignia given by the British to the Coorg people for “distinguished conduct and loyalty.”

Besides the political statement, there is also a cultural and social reasoning to the hockey festival.Consider these two voices: “When you have to build a family hockey team, the entire family will have to sit together, so in many ways it becomes a vehicle to sort out family and property disputes. It is also a time when the young scattered away in the cities come to meet the old,” says M.K. Ponnana.

In fact the Kodava family teams are unique in the sense that if the forwards are 16-year-olds, the fullbacks could be 60 years and the goal keeper could be a lady. The Koothanda family which reached the finals had 20-year-old Shilpa as its goalie.

Young and old, rich and poor, men and women, the binary distinctions are temporarily suspended for the families’ hockey season.

For Ponamma Muthappa the whole fest feigns war. It recreates the clash of tribal chieftains. “We are a martial race and we are very physical, when there is no war we express ourselves through hockey,” she explains.

Whatever may be the thick connotations of the hockey festival, for rank outsiders the single most interesting factor could be the pretty Kodava women. But the bugle sounds there too: “It is difficult to take home a wife,” a local girl adds blush to the statement, suggesting that they seldom marry outside their community!

[Excerpted from ‘Keeping Faith with the Mother Tongue – Anxieties of a Local Culture’ by Sugata Srinivasaraju. Published by Navakarnataka Publications. Price Rs. 200. Pages: 288]

Also read: A field day in Coorg

Preparation for the Kodava family hockey festival

‘The Hogenakal row is about land, not water’

8 April 2008

The temporarily-suspended row between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Hogenakal drinking water project has been remarkable for the almost complete lack of nuance and expertise in the articulation of the dispute. The key players on both sides — politicians, bureaucrats, engineers, lawyers, journalists — have been happy to let a complex legal issue be thrashed out at an emotional level on the streets.

Aside from the existence of a decade-old No Objection Certificate, there has been little or no effort to dig deep and explain the genesis of the row; how it suddenly erupted at this point in time; what the legal position is; what could be the way out, etc. The intellectual darkness proved to be fertile ground for language chauvinists and film parochialists on both side to whip up passions.

One exception has been the former Karnataka irrigation minister and former member of Parliament, H.N. Nanje Gowda, who gave a long interview to S.R. Aradhya of Udaya TV (above) and followed it up with comments to N. Niranjan Nikam of Deccan Herald. Gowda may not be the last word on the subject, but still his effort to explicate the controversy, as is, in a superheated atmosphere is unexceptionable.

The main points Gowda makes are:

# The Hogenakal row is not about water, it is about land. If it is just about drinking water, then let me state categorically that there is no problem at all. After all, it is just 1.46 tmc ft of water that Tamil Nadu is seeking for Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts. To draw this water, no dam is required to be built. All it requires is just a jackwell.

# There are four dimensions to Hogenakal. They are drinking water needs, irrigation needs, power project, and the holiday resort. As far as I can see, the real bone of contention is the resort. Both States claim that the 500-600 acre island, on which the Tamil Nadu tourism department is trying to build a resort, belongs to them.

# Hogenakal was part of Coimbatore district till 1956 when it was handed over to Karnataka. The Cauvery river forms the border between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for about 64 km. This is called the “common reach”. Hogenkal is at the 40th km. By international convention, if a river lies between two states or countries, then the centre point of the river forms the border. The island where TN wants to build a resort lies in the middle at Hogenakal but TN has not allowed a survey to be held to determine which State the island belongs to.

# The Union Government, way back in 1998, had proposed construction of four hydel projects, viz Shivanasamudram, Mekedatu, Rasimanal and Hogenakal. Karnataka agreed to the sharing of power generated by Rasimanal and Hogenakal which are situated in the common reach of the river Cauvery. However, Karnataka objected to the sharing of power generated by Shivanasamudram and Mekedatu projects on the ground that these projects fall entirely within the territory of Karnataka.

# We have to see is what the project report says. We also do not know whether they have submitted any project report to the Centre or not. Similarly I am not sure if the Karnataka government also has submitted any project report to Government of India or not…. If there is apprehension that Tamil Nadu in the guise of taking up drinking water project will construct a dam, which will result in submersion of the area, then we can approach the Centre at any time.

# The reasons for the current situation are the lack of transparency on the part of governor of Karnataka, Rameshwar Thakur, and the irresponsible, provocative and unwarranted statements of chief minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi. I wrote two letters to the governor urging him to have consultations with various parties on the irrigation projects but there has not even been an acknowledgement.

# If Karunanidhi is whipping up the Hogenakal issue ten years after the no-objection certificate was obtained, as a member of UPA, he probably has a hunch that the parliament will be dissolved, and maybe wants to hold assembly elections in Tamil Nadu simultaneously.

Videograb: courtesy Udaya TV

Link courtesy Rajeev Rao

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Who is right on Hogenakal?

How does a TV/cinema blackout help Hogenakal?

What your nela and what your jala says about you

The most testing day in the life of Rajnikanth

5 April 2008

He may have split a bullet with a blade to kill two people at the same time. He may have escaped from the clutches of a pack of tigers on a moped. He may have floored a gang of toughies with swirl of his hair. But 4 April 2008 has to be the most testing day in the life of Rajnikanth alias Sivaji Rao Gaekwad.

His close friends Vishnuvardhan and Ambarish managed to stay away from the dharna organised by the Kannada film industry in Bangalore. But for Bangalore-born star of Maharashtrian origin, it was not as easy to escape the ultimatum set by the Tamil film industry and subject himself to a public test of loyalty in Madras.

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Do stars represent a State?

CHURUMURI POLL: Do stars represent a State?

4 April 2008

A standout feature of any dispute involving Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is the pavlovian speed with which the film world enters the picture. Protest marches with stars at the helm, expressions of support in the media, rabble-rousing speeches, black-badge demonstrations, dharnas, etc, are all quickly whipped up as the distinction between the reel world and real world are erased. In some cases, as the Bangalore-born Rajnikanth (in picture, right) found out today in Madras, the participation of stars from across the border is used as an instant and public test of their identity and loyalties.

But do the denizens of the world of make-believe—actors, directors, producers, “item girls”, stunt men, composers, technicians—represent a State any more or any less than any other professional? Aside from their not inconsiderable hold on the masses which helps raise the temperature, does their participation help or hamper the resolution of emotive matters of land, language and water? In Tamil Nadu, where cinema and power-politics intersect easily (M.G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi) stars beyond their sell-by date (like Vijaykanth and Sharath Kumar) with one foot in the political cesspool, have a vested interest in entering the fray. But should Karnataka blindly follow suit?

Or is it all just eye-candy for star-struck fans? An escape from their maddening lives?


Photograph: Rajnikanth with Sharath Kumar (left) at the day-long fast to condemn the attack on theatres screening Tamil films in Karnataka over the Hogenakkal issue. Courtesy: Chennai Online

How does a TV/cinema blackout help Hogenakal?

4 April 2008

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Hyderabad: Indian politicians and activists have mastered the art of The Utterly Meaningless Gesture. Doing things that have no impact on the issue at hand, but designed to promote oneself and one’s own interests, have become their leit motif, with one eye on the TV cameras.

Exempli gratia: relay stirs, one-day fasts, human chains, candle-light vigils, torch-light parades, and rasta/rail (and, who knows, maybe in the near future, airplane) rokos.

All of these don’t spread awareness about an issue, show or muster support for a cause, or even affect their targets. All they do is add to the existing noise and fury. All they do is harass and inconvenience the people on whose behalf they act. And all they do is promote one’s chances of getting a ticket at the next election or pick up a few crumbs thrown their way.

Make no mistake, most of these forms of protest can’t even be dignified with the label of a symbolic gesture.

To that inglorious list, add the threat of a blackout of Tamil channels on cable in Karnataka (and the move to disallow Tamil films to be screened in theatres).

Thankfully, we are not alone. News reports say lawyers in Tamil Nadu have managed to operationalise a similar blackout of Kannada channels in that State. But should we go in for a tit-for-tat response and join in this self-flagellation?

In this day and age of direct to home (DTH) television and set-top boxes, organised cable operators, and not to mention a Constitution which guarantees the fundamental right of speech and ex-pression, those behind the move are harming their own cause by showing not only a complete ignorance of matters technical, but a total lack of imagination in their modes of protest.

Pray, tell us, how is a Tamil or Kannada TV watcher or movie goer responsible for the Hogenakal project?

And pray, tell us, what is a blackout of television supposed to achieve?

If it is supposed to send shivers down the spines of unsuspecting producers of Tamil shows, it has failed miserably as they are congregating today. If it is supposed to irritate and intimidate the Tamil minority in Bangalore, it has been a grand success. But is either of that going to solve our problem?

If it is to send a “message” down the Cauvery, what “message” have we sent when the other side has shown that two can play the game?

By such cheap displays of chauvinism we have only prompted the other side to take a harder stance and make it an all-or-nothing game, where our chances of “losing” increase. Plus, as history has shown, we are total amateurs when it comes to the fanatic overreaction of the Tamil variety (they invented the self-immolation, the suicide bomber, and Rajnikant fans’ clubs!)

By a giving needless linguistic angle to a water dispute, we have done our cause no small amount of harm. No amount of protests or breast-beating will get us a court or tribunal verdict in our favour if we don’t have a strong case (and believe me there is no other way this is ending, not after the high-pitched rhetoric being tossed around).

Our best chance of getting out of this situation would have been negotiations conducted in a spirit of give and take, ensuring that our interests were protected while the matter was resolved as quickly as possible. Adopting hardline positions which are untenable and likely to be thrown out of a court will get us nowhere.

M. Karunanidhi is probably rubbing his hands in glee at seeing the emotional outbursts “for” and “against” the matter. By encouraging the hotheads and the no-heads on this side of the border, Karunanidhi has in one stroke removed whatever maneouvering space we may have had on the issue.

To react to Karunanidhi’s provocations is to fall into the trap set by him. It is in Karunanidhi’s interests to show us up before the rest of the country as a bunch of hooligans and rowdies who are hellbent on holding back drinking water on the basis of language.

By turning this into an emotive language issue, by targetting television, cinema and newspapers, those behind the protests have greatly helped Karunanidhi.


Also read: Is it right to block Sun TV?

‘A time for statesmanship, not brinkmanship’

4 April 2008

A two-judge bench of the Karnataka High Court, comprising chief justice Cyriac Joseph and justice Ravi Malimath, has declined to intervene in a public interest litigation filed by a councillor from Chamarajangar and three others. The petitioners had sought a writ of mandamus for the completion of the 2005 joint survey for the demarcation of boundaries in the Hogenakal region.Chief justice Joseph said:

“They (the Karnataka government authorities) are sleeping over it. You have to wake them up first. It is not our duty to wake them up.

“This is a time to show statesmanship not brinkmanship.

“I agree the elections are near but, you are adding oil to fire, may be for cheap publicity. Today 10 buses will be burnt in Karnataka and tomorrow 11 will be burnt in TN, then 11 here and 12 there. Tamil channels are banned here, they banned Kannada channels. This is not a competition.”

“Politicians or citizens have to show restraint and feel like one nation, not inimical to each other. We expect responsible authorities to uphold the sense of oneness. If we admit the PIL here, somebody there will move the Madras High Court and it will be admitted.”

Read the full report: HC not to interfere, PIL withdrawn

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Also read: ‘State has only itself to blame’

‘Only a drinking water project: TN’

‘A steady escalation of tit-for-tat chauvinism’

3 April 2008

The Hindu in an editorial today on the Hogenakal row:

“The key fact is that the two States reached an agreement in 1998 that they would not oppose each other’s drinking water schemes. The reasoning was that as long as each State was utilising water only from its share of the Cauvery water as determined by the tribunal in its interim award, the other could have no cause for complaint. Tamil Nadu withdrew its objections to the diversion of Cauvery water for the Bangalore drinking water supply scheme on the understanding that Karnataka would not oppose the Hogenakal drinking water project. The central government subsequently cleared the Hogenakal project to everybody’s satisfaction. But all this is now being obscured in a steady escalation of tit-for-tat chauvinism.”

Read the full editorial: Unsettling a settled issue

CHURUMURI POLL: Who is right on Hogenakal?

2 April 2008

True to its name, the Hogenakal row has generated more smoke than light. Both sides are convinced that they are dead right and the other side is dead wrong—and neither side can entertain any other possibility in a surcharged atmopshere.

Karnataka says that since Hongenakal lies in a “disputed area“, TN cannot go ahead with the integrated water scheme till its “inter-State implications” are examined under the inter-state water disputes Act. It says the grant of a no-objection certificate by the Union water resources ministry in September 1998 cannot be considered as a resolution of the “inter-State implications” since the project was not part of TN’s case before the Cauvery water disputes tribunal (unlike the water supply scheme for Bangalore which Karnataka undertook).

For its part, Tamil Nadu avers that Karnataka has no locus standi to oppose the Hogenakal project since it is based on the NOC issued by the Centre 10 years ago. It says the two States had agreed not to object to drinking water supply schemes as long as the State concerned utilised water from its allocated share. It says the project is on the left bank of the border “which is well within Tamil Nadu”, hence there is no border dispute. It says it is using water allocated to it and which runs through TN for the project. And it says that the border dispute was solved fifty years ago.

But the intemperate statements of Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, the call for a Karnataka bandh on April 10 issued by language activists, the blackout of Tamil TV channels, disruption of bus services on either side, and the call for a Tamil film industry fast on Friday have queered the pitch.

Questions: Is the Hogenakal controversy only about water or is it also about land?
2. Is this an issue to be settled on the streets through the show of emotions by language chauvinists, writers and cinema stars, or in calm environs by water experts, people’s representatives and lawyers?
3. How specifically is Karnataka’s interests harmed? Will farmers or consumers be deprived of water because of the project, or is Karnataka wary that allowing water use will open the floodgates?
4. Can 30 lakh people of two districts (Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri) be deprived of drinking water merely because there is an resolved border row between two States for 50 years?
5. If more Tamil Nadu districts suffer from water shortage, can TN build similar dams downstream and seek a corresponding increase in Cauvery water allocation to meet the new requirements?
6. If Tamil Nadu’s intentions are entirely honourable and above-board, why was it so difficult for their State government to divulge the details of the project before formally launching it?
7. Would the Japan Bank for International Co-operation have agreed to fund the Hogenakal project if the legality of the location or the status of the river water dispute was not so clear?
8. Is Karnataka (and are Kannadigas) gaining any friends through knee-jerk reactions which seem to convey as if the people speaking a certain language (and their property) are the target?
9. Why in democratic India has it become so difficult for two States of the Union to sit and resolve an issue amicably? Why can’t the tribunal adjudicate on the “inter-State dimensions” expeditiously?
10. Has Hogenakal become an election issue? Are DMK in Tamil Nadu and the BJP in Karnataka trying to take electoral mileage out of it? Has Karnataka’s case been hurt by the absence of a popular government?

Also read: What your nela and what your jala says about you

Photograph: Kannada activists, including former minister B.T. Lalitha Naik (second from left), the BJP’s Mukhya Mantri Chandru (third from left) and T.A. Narayana Gowda of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (second from right), take out a torch-light march in Bangalore on Wednesday in protest against the statements of Tamil chief minister, M. Karunanidhi (Karnataka Photo News)

What your nela and what your jala says about you

31 March 2008

First Cauvery, now Hogenakal: Karnataka’s river of distrust with Tamil Nadu runs deep. After sparring over how to share water from the Cauvery, the two States have now locked horns over the Hogenakal Integrated Water Scheme.

Tamil Nadu’s plans to implement a Rs 1,334-crore Japanese-funded project to provide drinking water is opposed by Karnataka which says Hogenakal Falls is a “disputed border area” and no project can be taken up till the dispute is settled. The BJP’s Ananth Kumar raised the issue in Parliament in early March, calling it illegal; chief minister aspirant B.S. Yediyurappa took a coracle ride to oppose the project.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike has set a April 9 deadline for TN to drop the project, and has threatened to stop the airing of Tamil films and TV channels if the project goes ahead.

But Tamil Nadu’s local administration minister M.K. Stalin says the project would not harm Karnataka in any way as only Cauvery water that runs through TN territory would be utilised for the project. Its assembly last week passed a resolution urging the Centre to support the project and to stop Karnataka from opposing it. And chief minister M. Karunanidhi yesterday breathed fire: “This is just a spark, diffuse it at the very beginning so that it doesn’t turn into an inferno… Break not just our buses, but our bones.”

Just what is it about land, water and language that evokes such strong reactions in both States?

In his just-published book ‘Keeping Faith with the Mother Tongue‘ (Navakarnataka Publications), journalist, writer and translator Sugata Srinivasaraju looks at “The Tripod” of land, water and language that defines identity.



There is a quiet consensus that land and water are emotive issues. But why they become emotive often gets explained in livelihood, economic, environmental or political terms. These explanations undoubtedly reflect the most fundamental concerns of man, but they tend to overlook the fact that there is also a broad cultural element at play. This cultural element relates to the identity-imagination of the people. Who you are and where you come from are often described in physical terms of land and water.

Take for instance the drawing of the contours of the Kannada land in the earliest extant Kannada text, Kavirajamarga. It simply says that the land that lies between the Cauvery and the Godavari is the Kannada heartland (Cauveryindma Godavarivaramirpa nade Kannada tirul).

To this idea of land and water inexorably gets woven the aspect of language.

Identity is conceived on this tripod of land, water and language and therefore losing them in whatever measure is tantamount to losing identity. People may not make straight and stated connections between this tripod and their identity, but that is the cultural wisdom that governs them.

Therefore, when there is talk of sharing Cauvery water or conceding a few taluks to Maharashtra on the Belgaum border or when a mass icon like Raj Kumar who personifies standard Kannada speech dies, there is violence. The violence does not happen because there are some politically-motivated miscreants to do so, but because such violence is guaranteed amnesty under a well-perfected cultural logic linked to identity.

The violence is seen as an assertion of identity and not as a hooligan act. What in the jargon of law would qualify as crime, in this context turns out to be a ‘heroic’ act for a seemingly greater ’cause’.


Go back a little in history and see how India was reorganised post-Independence. The reorganisation of States was on cultural terms—on the basis of dominant language zones. They were not partitioned as economic zones, linking production areas with nearby markets. There is an argument that such an economic division was eminently possible and would have altered the destiny of India.

So, the very idea on which this nation is built supports an emotive identity struggle that revolves around land, water and language.

Therefore, invariably, river water tribunals can never give acceptable verdicts or border committees can never come to a conclusion. With the linguistic reorganisation of the States, there is also a rigidity that has been built into the conception.

The conception happens around the idea of dominance—which language dominates which area?

The most natural predisposition of the Indian people to be bilingual or trilingual is not taken into account in this conception and hence tension is inevitable and to an extent insurmountable. In this light, the demand for a seperate Kodava land or a Tulu Nadu, within a flat, homogeneous idea of Karnataka and Kannada is therefore perfectly understandable.

Land, could be an identity-marker, but at a baser-level it spawns a feudal idea. One often wonders if arrogance has its roots in the security of owning land. We are familiar with the argument that owning knowledge leads to oppression, to democratise that we innovated on the idea of reservations and created access to knowledge. Similarly, owning land too leads to arrogance and oppression, but that is something that we do not want to readily acknowledge.

Redistribution of land or land reforms has never been a continual programme for any government. Land has always formed a complicated relationship with power. At least, in the case of Karnataka the land reforms that was carried out in the 1970s was slowly, but significantly undone in the ’90s and not surprisingly by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, a man representing a dominant community of landlords and claiming to uplift a constituency of farmers.

It is not surprising therefore that between April 2004 and October 2007, when his party JD(S) was in a power arrangement nothing but land was discussed and deliberated, leading one to think if the government had become a quasi-real estate agency. First, it was about the extra land that was given to the international airport; then it was the ‘land-grabbing’ by Infosys; the controversy over the Arkavathy housing layout; then of course the excess land acquired for Nandi’s Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor project; the contentious mining of the Bellary lands for manganese and iron ore; formation of SEZs; Bidadi and Ramanagaram townships; newer ring roads around Bangalore; acquistion and alignments for Metro rail and finally a joint legislature committee to look into encroachments of land in and around Bangalore.

In this context it is interesting to observe that a fledgling political party that writer Devanur Mahadeva and others have floated, Sarvodaya Karnataka, whose manifesto aspires to bring the landed and landless on a single platform, has not taken off significantly. At best it remains a captivating idea, but founded on a naive, utopian ideal.

In the same breath, it is also interesting to note that in the recent debate about the introduction of English in primary schools, the ones who were militantly defending the interests of Kannada were from the forward and traditionally land-owning classes. But the ones subscribing to a ‘pragmatic’ English curriculum, were backwards and the landless masses.


All this should establish that land in our mind is inextricably linked with a host of other powerful cultural ideas like water and language. It is intertwined with our nationalism and ultimately our identity and hence can never be perceived in isolation or independently.

This should explain why so much of resistance and violence surrounds the idea of land today. The conflict that we see either in Nandigram or Nandagudi, the proposed sites of SEZs, is largely because people are being asked to alter their idea of land.

From a cultural conception that constructed our identity and shaped our national and sub-national debates, they are being forced to view it as real estate. Land was always inheritance, even in the severest of crisis it was pawned, not sold, but today it is placed in a terrain of borderless economics. It is an easily transactable commodity without any emotional baggage. This is culturally shocking and would take a long time before people accept it. It will take at least as long as it took us to create the idea of borders and nations.

In the last decade or so, the imagination of our governments have taken a right about turn. From flogging the idea of ‘India lives in its villages,’ to the idea of expanding the cities so that they seamlessly integrate villages, everything has been turned on its head. Villages as autonomous cultural nuggets are facing extinction in government policy.

A good question to ask would be whatever happens to the idea of rootedness?

We always had this fond thought that our wisdom was all stored in the villages and when we faced a crisis in the cities we could go back to the villages to recover them. But what happens when such a civilisational treasure is now on the brink of being lost?

The result is violence, in all its physical and metaphorical manifestations. The governments now think that if you improve one City, then a hundred villages around it will automatically prosper. A result of such thinking is the thousands of crores of rupees being allocated to the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

Sometime ago, N.R. Narayana Murthy of Infosys demanded green cultivable land to build his campuses. At one point technologists like him even advocated the idea that Bangalore should be converted into a Union territory, which means delinking it completely from all local politics.

It appears for both the corporates and the political class, all emotional linkages to either land or language are roadblocks to economic prosperity. They see it as an important and legitimate function of democratically elected governments to acquire and redistribute land to big corporations. These ideas have caused anxiety among people. One hopes that the anxiety about the imminent loss of language and land finds a mature expression.

[Excerpted from Keeping Faith with the Mother TongueThe Anxieties of a Local Culture, Navakarnataka Publications, pp 288, price Rs 200]

Photograph: courtesy K. Ashwin

Also read: Cauvery, Cauvery antha badkothare