Cauvery water gushing out from Mettur dam in Salem district on Friday. (Photo | Express)
Cauvery water gushing out from Mettur dam in Salem district on Friday. (Photo | Express)

Solve Cauvery distress, avoid bandh fatigue

According to various judgements by the Supreme Court and high courts, declaring bandhs is illegal because it violates the citizen’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

Each time the Cauvery water dispute boils over and Karnataka perceives itself to be at the short end of the stick, there is an outpouring of anger with calls for a bandh by pro-Kannada politicians. Tuesday’s bandh in the state was one such. But the confusion over who supports it and who doesn’t—after cab and auto-rickshaw associations opted out—left the common citizen in a dilemma. The response was lukewarm and may point to a sense of bandh fatigue in Bengaluru, which has to contend with another pan-Karnataka bandh on Friday. The two shutdowns are estimated to cost the state Rs 4,000 crore, and come on the heels of a partial strike called a fortnight ago by transporters unhappy with the Congress government’s Shakti scheme of giving free bus rides to women.

The century-old Cauvery dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has been punctuated by bandhs and violence against decisions by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and the Supreme Court that were deemed biased. There were the infamous riots of December 1991 when S Bangarappa was chief minister. More recently, in September 2016, Bengaluru was vandalised by mobs. These incidents have left a sense of fear. But, of late, a bandh as an expression of dissent and political angst has begun to lose its sting and appears to have outrun its utility. Instead of protests and mob violence, efforts should be made by the government to influence decision makers on the need for a formula for sharing of water in the case of distress, construction of the Mekedatu hydel power project, and a plan to deal with the effects of climate change.

According to various judgements by the Supreme Court and high courts, declaring bandhs is illegal because it violates the citizen’s fundamental rights and freedoms. Despite such rulings, political parties regularly call for bandhs, though governments are careful to distance themselves from such calls. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said his government cannot stop protests in a democracy, but has cautioned protesters against disregarding court orders. As a country with an aspirational economy, people should realise that a shutdown is self-defeating. A bandh or hartal is typical of a communist dispensation but is an oddity in today’s world. The IT sector, which has mastered work from home, remains unaffected. Politicians who call for bandhs have nothing to lose either; it is the daily wage labourer, the auto driver, hotelier and vendor who bear the cost.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com