Water scarcity usually hits the headlines in Karnataka in September when Tamil Nadu demands water, or at the fag end of May when water shortage grips the hinterland. This time, in January itself, the Mahadayi river water controversy has taken the state by storm while the Supreme Court verdict on the Cauvery water row too is expected in a few weeks. In view of this, Deccan Chronicle caught up with water resources minister, M.B. Patil for his view on these issues. In the midst of a series of meetings related to budget preparation, Mr Patil spoke to DC and defended his government's view while attacking the opposition BJP for trying to make political capital from the Mahadayi row. Here are excerpts from his interview.
After Goa water resources minister, Vinod Palyekar visited the controversial Kalasa Banduri Nala spot, you took a press team to the same site in Khanapur taluk in Belagavi. Where does the issue stands now?
Claiming that we have violated the Supreme Court interim order, they have filed a contempt petition against Karnataka. The Goa chief secretary had written a letter to our chief secretary to which our CS has replied. After the Supreme Court direction, we did not take up any fresh civil work since August last year. Tomorrow, if you send a team of technical experts to Kankumbi, they can easily come to a view that no fresh work has been done and whatever concrete work exists, is at least six months old. Then, the second claim about water flowing to Karnataka. When the gradient is high, how can water flow? I feel to cover up the mess Goa CM, Manohar Parrikar has got his water resources minister to make this false allegations against Karnataka.
Do you think a democratically elected government can take the risk of making false allegations against the government of a neighbouring state? People might not forgive them if they are exposed tomorrow.
They (Goa) will get exposed soon. Let the Central Water Commission representatives inspect the site, then their allegations will be proved false.
In the meantime, you alleged that BJP national president Amit Shah, BJP state president, B.S. Yeddyurappa and Mr Parrikar had conspired to do this. What do you mean by conspiracy?
You have to see this in the right perspective. Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah had written eight to ten letters to the Goa CM, our chief secretary has written five and I wrote one. They did not bother to revert to us. When we met Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, we discussed the issue at length. Again when we met him to give a memorandum on drought, we apprised him about the Mahadayi issue. He talked like a BJP president. He told us to talk to the opposition parties in Maharashtra and Goa. When Assembly elections are nearing here, violating the protocol, Mr Parrikar wrote to Mr Yeddyurappa. In turn, Mr Yeddyurappa read out the letter at the Parivarthana Rally in Hubballi. If he was genuinely interested in solving the row, he would have sent the letter to our CM. In spite of this, the CM took cognisance and in the interest of farmers, wrote a letter to the Goa CM. There was no reply. This clearly shows they(BJP) conspired to stage a drama.
But now, people in 11 taluks have decided not to allow any political party to visit their villages. That clearly shows they are disappointed with all political parties..
I don't think so. People who are agitating have nothing against the Congress party. We have done everything for them; we have been writing to CMs, we took a delegation to the PM, what else can we do?
They have formed a political party and they clearly said they do not want any political leader in their villages.
I do not think so. I am not aware of this. They are upset with the BJP. When we go to them, we will explain what we have done.
When they met the CM, they sent a letter to AICC president Rahul Gandhi through Mr Siddaramaiah. In that letter, they said Mr Gandhi should convince the opposition Congress leaders in Goa to support Karnataka's cause.
No. It can't be done that way. See, how we did it here. Our CM had convened a meeting and we took the opposition parties into confidence. Similarly, it is the responsibility of the Goa CM to convince the opposition parties, this is not the job of Mr Gandhi.
Many a time, on sensitive issues, Track II diplomacy is opted for. There is nothing wrong in doing the same with Goan Congress leaders on the Mahadayi water issue.
I explained to you how we evolve a consensus. See, the agitating farmers. When I went there, they were very cordial and co-operative. But when Mr Yeddyurappa went there, they protested. So they are upset with the BJP, not us.
Generally, agitations take place in neutral spots like Freedom Park. Why would the Mahadayi farmers choose the BJP office for a protest? Many believe it was the handiwork of the Congress.
It was Mr Yeddyurappa who made a promise to get water by December. It was natural for the farmers to go to the BJP office and protest against him when he failed to fulfil the promise. When he failed, what do they do? Do they go to the BJP or Congress office? We in the Congress have not erred.
Be it the inter-state border dispute or water row, national parties failed to show magnanimity and statesmanship in finding a solution. Then why do we need national parties?
It is the BJP which has failed. We can give precedents of how late Indira Gandhi resolved the Telugu Ganga crisis. She had called the Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra chief ministers and prevailed upon them to give five tmc water to Chennai. Here we have a PM who did not take any initiative.
All the three states, AP, Maharashtra and Karnataka were ruled by the Congress and so, she could convince them..
Who said the Central government should not do a good job like her (former PM Indira Gandhi)? This is a big issue. They could have sorted this out.
Moving on, the Cauvery water sharing verdict is likely to come out in a month. The Tamil Nadu CM has written a letter to Mr Siddaramaiah. Do we have enough water in the basin?
We have water for a hand-to-mouth existence. It will be difficult for us to face the situation after March. Only for environment reasons, we can allow some water to go downstream. Or on humanitarian grounds, we can share some water. We can't even think of giving 10 tmc of water. No way.
Do you think the final verdict will be in favour of us?
We hope so. Fali Nariman, Shyam Divan and our Mohan Katarki have worked very hard. We should succeed. Reduction from 192 tmc, formulation of a a distress formula and water for two thirds of Bengaluru are some of our demands and we hope the verdict will be in our favour.
Note from Kannada.Club :
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