Karnataka bandh explained: The Mekedatu row and the state hiatus

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Bengaluru, April 18:The effect of the Karnataka Band can be seen on the roads of Bengaluru, with the shops shut close, roads vacant and unwilling auto drivers. The police cars on high alert patrol, ready for action if need be.

While employees are working indoors and enjoying an early weekend, in most cases, very few know what exactly is the Bandh for.

Karnataka bandh explained

What is Kannada Okkatu?

To exert pressure on the state government to implement the Mekedatu Drinking Water project, various Kannada organizations have formed a union 'Kannada Okkuta' and called for a state-wide bandh today.

The president of the organization, Vatal Nagaraju said that the Bandh would be characterized by peaceful rallies across the state and a huge rally would be organised from Town Hall to Freedom Park as leaders submit a memorandum to chief minister Siddaramaiah.

Okkatu is expecting an assemblage of over 1 lakh people. However, he assured that milk supply, transportation and milk supply will not be affected.

What is the Mekedatu project?

A pet project of the Karnataka government, the Mekedatu drinking water project is a major drip irrigation project for sugercane cultivators, bringing more water-parched lands under it.

Karnataka bandh explained

Incidentally, Karnataka has the second largest tract of dry lands after Rajasthan. The project also includes the desiltation of various dams which include the Tungabhadra Dam and rejuvenation of Arkavathy river.

The State Government is likely to invite technical consultancy for the project at Mekedatu, about 90 kilometers from Bengaluru. The project will provide drinking water to Bengaluru and the towns in the Cauvery basin, but at the cost of 2500 acres of forest land that would be submerged.

Presently, the Cauvery water is pumped from Torekadanahalli, which is 100 km from the city.

What is causing the band?

The delay in executing the water project is due to the interference of Tamil Nadu. The state has urged the Centre to advise Karnataka to stop all water projects including the Mekedatu drinking water project in Cauvery basin as it violates the final orders of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and affects the interest of its farmers.

Meanwhile, Fali S Nariman, the head of Karnataka's legal and technical advisory team on Cauvery basin projects, has advised a go ahead with the project.

Karnataka bandh explained

He said,"The proposed project is within our land boundary and utilises our share of water in the Cauvery basin. Nariman has made it clear that Tamil Nadu will not have any grounds to stop it."

He further said Karnataka ha to ensure flow of 192 tmcft of water at the Biligundlu monitoring station.

Karnataka bandh explained

"We are approaching the Central Water Commission seeking clearance for the project. We do not anticipate any resistance from Tamil Nadu as we are not violating any water sharing agreement or the Supreme Court direction. This is just a drinking water project and we are confident of getting the go-ahead from the Central Water Commission," Nariman said.

Who is supporting the bandh?

Some of the prominent organizations that are supporting the project include Dr. Rajkumar Fans' Association, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, Kannada Sahitya Parishat.

While the Mekedatu project is just one of the reasons for the band, there are several others too which include " demanding release of Rs.10,000-crore for completion of works on Upper Krishna Project, release of additional funds for the development of Belagavi and stoppage of work on laying high-tension power line across the Western Ghats through Kodagu."

The 'Band-o-bast'

To combat any unforeseen situation in the state, the whole of city police has been deployed to check any stone pelting of forced participation. Apart from this, 30 platoons of Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) and 30 companies of City Armed Reserve (CAR) have also been deployed.

The commissioner of police M.N Reddy has said that all the processions would be recorded and anyone indulging in rioting would be dealt with seriously.

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