The Centre ought to not waste further time in setting up a mechanism to implement the Supreme Court’s order on the Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The Government can establish a body that can be called a ‘Board’ or an ‘Authority’ — the name is of less essence as the fact that the authorities must act before the issue leads to a fresh round of unrest in the two States; we have witnessed violence before and do not look forward to a repeat.
In its verdict, the apex court had directed the Centre to establish a mechanism within six weeks of the order, but for various reasons, the Union Government had failed to meet the deadline. But now, with the court taking serious exception to the delay, the Centre has to move fast. It must make use of the court’s flexibility in allowing it to determine what sort of a scheme it wishes to formulate to resolve the matter, in keeping with the provisions of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956. It must be pointed out here that the Cauvery water dispute is neither the Modi Government’s making nor is it a result of any lack of commitment on its part to resolve the matter. It’s been there for years and previous regimes not just failed to settle it but also complicated the issue further by their delaying tactics. Nonetheless, the Centre today cannot avoid the taking the bull by the horns, nor can it escape the blame in case the matter goes out of hand. Therefore, it has to act, both according to the apex court’s directives and also in a manner that is fair to both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Meanwhile, attempts to play politics by certain groups on the issue, by exploiting public sentiments, is uncalled for. Nothing is to be gained by pitting one Indian state against the other. Neither is there any benefit in states taking on the Centre. The federal system that we have, has ample potential to resolve such disputes in amicable ways. Certain politicians and newcomers to politics in Tamil Nadu, such as actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, have found in the Indian Premier League cricket tournament a soft target and said that it was wrong to hold IPL matches in Tamil Nadu at a time when the people were upset over the Cauvery issue. It is unfair to connect the two. By that logic, it would be unfair to even release their new films in the State. Populist utterances or positioning may yield some immediate dividend, but they are not the solution.