Cauvery row: assess winter monsoon too

Cauvery row: assess winter monsoon too

Section 125 of Indian Criminal Procedure Code deals with payment of maintenance in case of divorce. It is generally believed that the wife is entitled to maintenance but this is not always the case. Exceptions are also there, though rare.

Also, the quantum of maintenance decided by a court of law depends upon the educational and financial position of the wife and she may not get any maintenance or get only a very small amount of maintenance if she herself already has a good source of income.

This point is very nicely indicated in a judgment of Delhi High Court which ruled that a woman who was earning sufficient income to take care of herself was not entitled to maintenance from her estranged husband.

In another judgment, a Mumbai family court ruled that a wife who is well qualified, but is sitting idle at home, is not entitled to maintenance from the husband whom she has divorced.

Basically, Section 125 upholds the general principle of natural justice and ensures that in the matter of dispute between two parties involving the transfer of resources from one to another, one party is not allowed to claim excessive benefits at the expense of the other.

Strange as it may seem, the spirit of Section 125 may be applied to the Cauvery river water sharing dispute, looking at it from a new perspective. The non-delta farmers in the Cauvery basin essentially have to utilise water from the summer monsoon whereas the delta farmers have the possibility of utilising water resources from both the summer and winter monsoons.

A case in point being that perhaps the previous winter monsoon was good and the delta farmers were able to get a good harvest thanks to the available water.

Hence, for the purpose estimating water resources, the assessment year can encompass the previous winter monsoon and the current summer monsoon.

Data is fully available as regards the performance of the previous winter monsoon, say of 2015-2016. However, it must be added that next winter monsoon is hard to predict and may be erratic.

If it turns out that the delta farmers had a good winter monsoon and if the current summer monsoon is deficient, then the delta farmers may be requested to manage with a lower quantum of water release keeping in mind the hardships faced by the non-delta farmers due to lack of water.

Top priority
At any rate, top priority should be given to the drinking water requirements of all concerned. On the other hand, if the next winter monsoon say of 2016-17 is weak, then the delta farmers should be allocated a larger amount of water during the subsequent summer monsoon period to mitigate their difficulties.

There will not be any problem if both the winter and summer monsoons are up to expectations. The proposed procedure, which may be fine-tuned, is consistent with the operational part of Section 125 which strives to protect the interests of both the parties but at the same time balances the pain felt by them.

It seems that in the short-term, the problem can be solved based on hard facts and cold realities. However, in the long-term, a more holistic approach to the dispute may be envisaged, fashioned after the Danube river basin agreement.

The Danube river flows through 10 European countries which include Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine etc. This agreement was based on the study of hydro ecosystem which includes groundwater. Here pollutants are monitored, polluters are identified, responsibilities are fixed and remedial actions are taken.

Adequate attention is paid to the development of infrastructure to enable distribution of available water resources and maximise utilisation of water. Computer software simulations are used to get quantitative estimates of water availability at different locations and times. The agreement promotes sustainable and equitable water management and is worthy of emulation.  

In the present situation, considering the complex dynamics of Cauvery water sharing, it is important that in the decision making process, there is a greater involvement of technical experts who are provided authentic real-time data.

Needless to say, an amicable, long lasting, binding and enforceable solution to the water sharing problem will not be obtained by the actions of a few individuals in a charged atmosphere.

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