In times of crisis, cracks quick to develop in Cauvery family

A group that came together to help resolve the Cauvery river dispute is now falling apart, ironically for the same reasons they came together.

Recent developments have created a rift in the Cauvery Family — a group of farmers and academics from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu who united in 2003 — with members from one state upset with members from the other state for breaching understandings they had cultivated over time.

Members in Karnataka sharing platforms with political leaders in recent protests against the release of water to Tamil Nadu, and issuing emotional statements, has not gone down well with members in Tamil Nadu.

S Ranganathan, convener of the TN side, said farmers’ leaders of the Cauvery Family like K S Puttannaiah should not have shared platforms with politicians in the ongoing agitation in Karnataka.

 The organisation is “an apolitical forum,” said Ranganathan. “He (Puttanaiah) and other members sharing dais with politicians and issuing emotional statements is not proper. TN farmers badly need water now. There is nothing political about it. The leaders in Karnataka are aware of it…I wish him all the good luck,” he said.

Kurubur Shantkumar and Kodihalli Chandrashekar are the other Karnataka members staging protests against the release of 9,000 cusecs of water everyday to TN, as ordered by the Supreme Court on a Cauvery River Authority (CRA) directive.

The Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) formed the Cauvery Family in 2003 to ensure a better understanding among farmers of both states and thereby create an atmosphere of mutual trust and harmony.

Currently, the group has 22 members — 11 on each side. The members are farmers’ leaders and irrigation experts from the region. B B Subbaiah is the convener on the Karnataka side.

Over the years, Cauvery Family has contributed to prevent violence among farmers on the water sharing issue.

Chief pressure

However, some of the Karnataka members believe that their colleagues in TN are acting under pressure from their Chief Minister, J Jayalathitha.

A Karnataka member from Cauvery Family, who did not want to be identified, said many of their TN members are from the Tiruchirappalli district, the same district where Srirangam Assembly constituency is located, which Jayalalitha represents.

Members in TN have yielded to political pressure and hence, are not willing to convene the organisation’s annual meeting, said the Karnataka member. The meeting was scheduled to be held in July this year in Tiruchirappalli, but it was postponed. The last meeting was held in November 2011 in Bangalore.

Ranganathan, however, said the meeting in July was postponed because of the hostile atmosphere on both sides. It will be held once the issue blows over, he said, adding, “We in the Family never keep any connection with politics. Still we have better say in the Assembly than compared to those in Karnataka,” he said.

Normality

Ranganathan said the Cauvery Family would continue to function as usual. He urged the governments of both states to give the group legitimacy.

Subbaiah said minor differences were bound to exist between members, but expressed confidence that they would all be addressed soon.

“The meeting will be organised soon after the issue is resolved,” he said but declined to comment on the release of water to Tamil Nadu.

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