Cauvery dispute: Tamil Nadu farmers hope rain god is kind, Karnataka fair
After incurring losses for six years, state’s farmers hope rain gods will be kind and Karnataka fair in sharing water so that they are able to harvest profit this yearUpdated: Feb 06, 2018 07:59 IST
Lush green, swaying samba paddy fields dot the horizon from Tiruchirapalli towards the tail end of Cauvery basin in Tamil Nadu, towards the Bay of Bengal coast in Nagapattinam.
Surely, all must be well with the farming community in TN’s rice bowl? Then, did the dramatic farmer protests with tonsured heads and human skulls in Delhi, led by P Ayyakannu, exaggerate farm distress?
A local farmer cautioned the untrained eye, “The greenery can be fleeting.”
At the moment, farmers are hoping the rain god is kind and Karnataka fair. For the first time in six years, a section of farmers in the Cauvery delta comprising Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur and parts of Tiruchirapalli are beginning to smell success after a favourable northeast monsoon.
Now, they are desperate for water from Mettur dam, but the Tamil Nadu government is unable to oblige due to acute shortage. Chief minister Edapaddi Palaniswami has sought time from his Karnataka counterpart, Siddaramaiah, to urge him to release Cauvery water to save the standing crop.
Deekshita Balasubramaniam, a prosperous landlord who owns farmland spanning 400 acres at Kallanai in Tiruchirapalli, has suffered extensive losses in the years gone by and is hoping to harvest a profit this time.
“I could withstand (the losses) because I own two colleges and other businesses. But for many, successive crop failures on account of water shortage due to drought and Karnataka’s refusal to part with Cauvery water have meant collapse,” said Balasubramaniam, the Tiruchirapalli district president of Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Association.
Delta farmers need a few more wettings of their standing crop before they harvest. If they don’t get water, it will be another year of loss.
NC Kannan, 42, who has a three-acre farm in Thirumalam village located barely 7 km from Bay of Bengal, has fingers crossed. “Every year in the past six years, I lost Rs 1.5 lakh. All because of Karnataka,” he said. Farmers across the region take the same line.
P Sivagnanabharathi, 56, who has a two-acre farm at Irandamsetti village on the outskirts of Mannargudi, said, “Karnataka will not accept the Supreme Court verdict, like it ignored recent orders to release water to Tamil Nadu.” Sivagnanabharathi, who is also a state government employee, added, “Even if the SC verdict favours Tamil Nadu, Karnataka will never implement it. With elections in Karnataka, we will become victims again.”
T Madan, 26, working on his farmland at Pirinjimulai village near Thalainayar town, said, “Of course, Karnataka will dare the SC again and refuse to accept any order that asks it to give water.” Madan, who is pursuing a PhD, added, “Has anyone been able to force Karnataka to give water as per SC order? Unfortunately, politicians in TN are not united as they are in Karnataka when crucial issues come up. We have been left to the mercy of God and Karnataka.”
Jeeva Kumar, a farmer welfare activist and CPI(M) member, said, “In the last six years, Tamil Nadu government has not convened a single all-party meeting on the issue, nor sent one delegation to the President, the Prime Minister and authorities concerned.
S Ranganathan, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, said, “Karnataka has spent more money in desilting its lakes, ponds, canals and rivers, built more dams, whereas in Tamil Nadu, it seems the government and politicians are only interested in sand mining.” Ranganathan, whose petition led to the legal battle between the two states on Cauvery water sharing, added, “Rivers have become a source of money for politicians — so they want rivers without water.”
Incidentally, Ranganathan is a part of Cauvery Family, a group of farmers from both states who have met for years to find an amicable solution to the water dispute without recourse to courts.
He believes it is possible. “Leave it to farmers of both states. They will settle it,” said Ranganathan. So why haven’t they been able to resolve the differences? “Politicians have spoiled it,” he added.