Everybody joins the bandhwagon

As Karnataka shuts down on Thursday over Mahadayi River water sharing issue nearly 50,000 police personnel will be out on the streets to maintain law and order. The state-wide bandh will cost the state thousands of crores, as business establishments and companies down shutters for the day, reports Team DC.

Excluding essential services like hospitals, medical shops and milk booths all other services will be shut on Thursday in response to the state-wide bandh called on Mahadayi dispute, according to Mr Vatal Nagaraj, president of the Kannada Okkoota, an umbrella organisation of all pro-Kannada outfits, which is spearheading the protest.

Speaking to the Deccan Chronicle, he said over 2,000 Kannada organisations, government employees, Karnataka Film Chamber, trade associations, taxis, cabs and lorry associations, and hotel owners’ association had expressed their solidarity with the Mahadayi farmers.

“Our intention is not to  inconvenience people but draw attention to the long pending Mahadayi river water dispute with Goa as our elected representatives have miserably failed to raise it in parliament although it affects thousands of people and farmers. We want  Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene in the  dispute and resolve it as there is a lack of strong leadership  both in Karnataka and Goa to settle it through talks,” he added.

Although  Karnataka Rakshana Vedike's president,  Narayana Gowda has contended that he should have consulted all Kannada groups  before calling for the bandh, he said he had no differences with him. “I have a lot of respect for him. We have not called the bandh for our personal gain. It is for the good of the state, " he noted.

Cops on their toes
It’s a very tight calendar for the police as they brace themselves for the State-wide bandh on Thursday, which also coincides with the visit of BJP President Amit Shah to Mysuru and the Republic Day on Friday.

The State-wide bandh, which has been called by several pro-Kannada and farmer organisations to press for a permanent solution to decades long dispute between Karnataka and Goa over sharing of Mahadayi water is also being supported by the ruling Congress party.

Besides heavy deployment of armed and civil police, the police top brass have spoken to the bandh organisers and asked them to ensure peaceful protests and not disrupt law and order.

“We are in touch with the organisers and have requested them to hold peaceful protests. We have deployed 170 platoons of the State Reserve Police along with 200 platoons of District and City Armed Reserve across the State with special focus on the three districts in North Karnataka – Gadag, Dharwad and Navalgund, which have been witnessing weekly bandhs for more than a month now on the Mahadayi water sharing issue. Besides the KSRP, DAR and
CAR platoons we have also deployed 50,000 district police across the State.
All unit officers are monitoring the situation very closely,” said Additional Director General of Police, Law & Order, Kamal Pant. He added the police have made preventive arrests of miscreants and trouble mongers, who may try to vandalise public property and disrupt law and order.

Police make preventive arrests
Ahead of the Karnataka bandh, the city police has taken over a  hundred  rowdysheeters into preventive custody to ensure that law and order does not break down during the day.  

City police commissioner T. Suneel Kumar told reporters that the decision was taken after a discussion with all the DCPs and identifying the rowdysheeters with a history of creating trouble and nuisance during bandhs.

“Over 100 rowdysheeters have been taken into preventive custody to avoid any untoward incident. Besides this, all the police personnel on duty have been instructed to act tough against anyone attempting to disturb  law and order. Special monitoring will be done in sensitive areas and people trying to forcibly shut down shops, throw stones and attack people won’t be spared,” Mr. Kumar warned, adding that over 15,000 police personnel and 50 KSRP platoons would be deployed during the bandh.

Exams postponed
Bangalore University postponed all exams to be held on January 25 and published a revised schedule on its official portal on Tuesday. The Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) too has postponed all postgraduate theory exams scheduled to be held on Thursday to February 5. “The exam timings will remain unchanged,” said Mr Satish Annigeri, Registrar (Evaluation). The II PU practical exams scheduled for January 25 have been postponed to February 21.

Malls to shut doors
All  malls in the city will close for the day and  open only after 6 pm.

Cabs, autos, buses to ply as usual
Transport in the city is unlikely to be hit by the bandh on Thursday with the  Metro Rail, autos, a number of cabs, BMTC and KSRTC buses deciding to operate as usual. But they have not ruled out    stopping their services should there be  any security threat.

"We will start normal services. But if there is a security threat to both commuters and the Metro infrastructure we may have to stop operations.  Adequate security arrangements have been made at all stations," said CPRO of Namma Metro, Vasanth Rao.

Bengaluru Tourist Taxi Assosciation president, Radakrishna Holla said  the association leaders would join the protest and give it moral support, but over two lakh taxi drivers had signed an agreement to ferry employees working in over 500 MNCs in the city during the bandh

“With successive holidays from January 26 to 29  this is the right time for drivers to earn their livelihood," he explained. . It wasn’t clear whether  Ola and Uber taxis would ply as usual as their representatives could  not be reached for comment.   

Meanwhile, president of the Adarsha Auto Union, Manjunath said while the auto drivers supported the cause of  the farmers over the Mahadayi dispute, they would not take part in the bandh. “ We have left it to individual auto drivers to do as they please. There are no restrictions as drivers have to earn their livelihood," he added.

CBSE schools will close for the day
Although the Managements of Independent CBSE Schools Association (MICSA) has decided to leave it to individual schools to take a call on whether to shut or not for the day, most CBSE schools are likely to close. Other private schools too have decided to declare a holiday on Thursday.

Hospitals to function as usual
All hospital services will be available on Thursday, according to Dr Ravindra R, Medical Director of Suguna Hospital, who is also the Secretary of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA)

Bandh uncalled for, will resolve nothing: Mohandas Pai
Bandhs always prove costly and while water sentiments may be strong , they are not the solution, asserts chairman of Manipal Global Education, Mohandas Pai.
Lambasting the state government for allowing Thursday’s protest at the cost of paralysing the  entire state , including  Bengaluru which is likely to losing about Rs 20,000 crore in business during the 12-hour dawn to dusk bandh, he says it must instead discharge its Constitutional duty of maintaining law and order.
“A bandh is nothing but goodagiri at its worst. It is a big shame for the Siddaramaiah government as a total shutdown of services results in inconveniencing lakhs of people and  forces schools and colleges to shut too. This is uncalled for suffering as no amount of protest will help resolve the Mahadayi water dispute. It is  an interstate dispute and the solution  can be expected only from the courts and tribunals. It is necessary for the state government to realise this rather than support a group that  wants to hold the city to ransom for its own political ends, ” he adds.

Pointing out that about 60 per cent of the state’s  GDP comes from Bengaluru alone , he says a shutdown of the city leads to enormous losses that Karnataka can do without.

“If the state government is serious about making the bandh a non- success, the entire police force must be mustered, section 144  clamped across the city and all  protesters  sent to jail or be taken into  preventive custody,” he stresses.
In his view it would be  more acceptable  for all  political parties to hold a fast unto death on the Mahadayi dispute rather than  put citizens through such hardship.

“I don’t know if the government is backing the bandh. But it shows it  in poor light. Pressure doesn’t work in such matters. An inter-state issue is usually resolved in court. Even if Karnataka shuts down for two years it will not work. The solution has to come in a civilised manner,” he contends.

Farmers set Feb. 22 deadline to resolve dispute
Fully backing the state-wide bandh called  on the  Mahadayi river water dispute on Thursday, the farmers of the Malaprabha river basin in the Mumbai-Karnataka region have given political parties a deadline of February 22  to resolve it and threatened to intensify their movement if they fail to do so.

Bengaluru

At a co-ordination committee meeting of various farmers’ organisations from the 4 districts of Dharwad, Belagavi, Gadag and Bagalkot in Nargund on Wednesday, hundreds of farmers demanded that both the Congress and BJP clarify  their stand on the Mahadayi water dispute and also condemned state BJP chief, B S Yeddyurappa’s claim that the bandh was Congress-sponsored.

“All organisations have come together to ensure that the bandh is successful though Kannada activist, Vatal Nagaraj did not take most of them into confidence when calling for it. Around 40,000  farmers have voluntarily come forward to take part in the Shramadana to complete the Kalasa Bhanduri project without depending on the government for help. The authorities  will be responsible for any trouble that may break out when we go to Kanakumbi village to begin the work,” warned Kalasa Banduri Horata Samiti president, Vijay Kulkarni.

Showing they mean business, farmers visited Delhi  to  submit a petition to the Centre on Tuesday, telling it of its plans to launch a political party of their own and  implement the Kalasa Banduri project without state support.  Thousands of farmers also resolved to begin a dharna later this week in front of the Gandhi statue in Bengaluru and finalise a strategy  to barge into the  Kalasa Banduri project site  in Kankumbi village of Belagavi district carrying spades and shovels. As for Thursday's bandh, with farmers deciding to block the National Highway-218 between Hubballi and Vijaypur, the police has beefed up security in Nargund and Navalgund towns to make sure there is no cause for tension.

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