Chennai: Farmers from Tamil Nadu will begin an indefinite hunger strike in the national capital on Monday, putting pressure on the central government to form a Cauvery Management Board by 29 March as directed by the Supreme Court.
On 16 February, the Supreme Court asked the centre to form the Cauvery board to implement a formula for sharing water between upstream Tamil Nadu and downstream Karnataka for 15 years. Tamil Nadu wants the board in place to protect its interests, while Karnataka is not in its favour. The centre is yet to form the board, as the deadline looms.
P.R. Pandian, leader of the Coordination Committee of All Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, said the hunger strike will continue until the Cauvery board is set up and that it would not accept any action by the Union government to replace the management board with a “scheme". The agitation marks a return of farmers from Tamil Nadu’s Cauvery delta who had staged a protest in New Delhi for over a month last year demanding a loan wavier for their drought-hit state.
On Sunday, T.T.V Dhinakaran, former leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) who recently launched his party Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, began a hunger strike on Sunday in Thanjavur district, demanding constitution of the Cauvery board.
While the Tamil Nadu MPs agitate in the Parliament, farmers and activists from the state have upped the ante in the last few days.
Last week, opposition parties including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) asked Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK to file a contempt petition against the centre and move a no-confidence motion for not implementing the order of the Supreme Court.
On Sunday, the DMK adopted a resolution at the party’s two-day conference in Erode, urging the AIADMK to ensure Tamil Nadu’s rights are upheld in the inter-state dispute, and resolved to hold statewide protests if the state government failed to do so.
DMK working president and the leader of opposition M.K. Stalin, who has been vocal in attacking the laxity of state government in pushing the centre, on Friday had said, “When I raised the issue in state assembly (deputy chief minister) Panneerselvam asked me to be patient till 29 March. Since the state government has surrendered itself to the centre, chances of the board being set up is low."
He also added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not responded to Tamil Nadu’s request to meet representatives from the state to discuss the Cauvery water dispute and has failed to reply to the resolutions passed by all-party meeting in Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Nadu assembly.
The Supreme Court has directed Karnataka to release 177.25 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water to Tamil Nadu. This reduced Tamil Nadu’s share of Cauvery water by 14.75tmcft from the 192tmcft allocated by a tribunal in 2007. It also directed the centre to frame a “scheme" within six weeks to implement the decision.
A day after the Cauvery verdict, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said his government would oppose constitution of the board, stating the Supreme Court verdict only mentions a “scheme" and not a board.
On 15 March, the Tamil Nadu assembly unanimously adopted a resolution urging the centre to constitute the board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee as directed by the Supreme Court.
Following this, Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami wrote to Prime Minister Modi. He said: “Since four weeks have already lapsed without any positive outcome, the farmers and the people of Tamil Nadu who have been suffering for more than four decades, are deeply anguished."