Life was disrupted across Karnataka on Saturday due to a shutdown over an inter-state tribunal rejecting the state’s interim plea for sharing the Mahadayi river waters.
“Barring incidents of stone-throwing, forcible closure of some shops and blocking vehicular movement, the dawn-to-dusk shutdown has been peaceful so far amid tight security,” an official told IANS here.
Schools, colleges, offices, shops, markets, malls, theatres and hotels were shut in response to the 12-hour shutdown called by pro-Kannada organisations and farmers’ associations against the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal’s July 27 order, which disallows water supply from the river for drinking and irrigation of farmland.
Essential needs, including supply of milk and sale of vegetables, fruits and provisions by petty shops in residential areas were exempted from the shutdown. Ambulance service was allowed and medical stores remained open.
Workers of the state-run road transport corporations joined the shutdown, affecting bus services in cities and towns. Private buses, maxi cabs, taxis and autos stayed off the roads in support of the call and fearing attack by protesters.
Hundreds of passengers alighting from trains at railway stations, commuters at intra-state and inter-state bus terminals and fliers at the Bengaluru airport were stranded in the absence of transport service, as private cars and two-wheelers kept away.
Additional police forces were deployed in all the districts across the state to prevent untoward incidents and maintain law and order.
“We have deployed a dozen platoons of the Rapid Action Force, Karnataka State Reserve Police and the Border Security Force in all the four districts to monitor the situation and maintain vigil,” said a police official said.
Thousands of people, including farmers, traders, students and activists of the Kannada Rakshna Vedike (protection forum), held demonstrations and rallies in many cities and towns across the state against the tribunal order.
The police caned protesters at Yamanur village in Dharwad district to disperse them after an unruly mob threatened to damage public property and state offices.
“The tribunal has done injustice to the people of Bagalkot, Belagavi, Gadag and Hubballi-Dharwad districts in the state’s northern region by denying their share of the river water,” Karnataka Vatal Paksha president V Nagaraj told reporters here.
The three-member tribunal, headed by Justice JN Panchal, on Wednesday rejected the state’s petition for releasing 7.6 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of the river water on various grounds, including ecological damage the project may cause to the rich bio-diverse Western Ghats in the region.
“The state government should seek the central government’s intervention to resolve the inter-state issue pending over a decade and affecting 10-million people, especially farmers in the drought-prone region and in supplying drinking water to the four districts,” Nagaraj reiterated.
Protesters gathered at Town Hall in Bengaluru, and marched to Freedom Park for a public rally in support of the people in the affected districts.
The dam project, being built across the Kalasa-Banduri tributaries of the river in the Malabrahai basin, is meant to improve water supply to the four districts.
As the 77km-long Mahadayi flows into Goa from Karnataka on the west coast into the Arabian Sea, the former has been objecting over sharing its water, as 52km of its stretch is in its state and is a lifeline for its people.