Bangalore: Protests erupted late on Wednesday in Cauvery belt in Karnataka hours after Supreme Court's directive to the state to release 10,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu. Authorities in Mandya, about 80 km from Bangalore, announced that schools and colleges will be closed on Thursday and Friday following a call by farmers' groups for a shutdown in the district and to lay siege to Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) reservoir on Thursday as water is expected to be released from there.
Vehicular movement between Bangalore and Mysore, about 130 km away, was disrupted for several hours late on Wednesday as farmers' groups and Kannada organisations blocked the highway at Mandya. Mandya is around 50 km from Mysore. Though KRS is about 20 km from Mysore city, it is located in Mandya district which is the hotbed of agitation if Cauvery water is to be released to Tamil Nadu when Karnataka is hit by drought.
Prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more people have been imposed at the KRS reservoir from Thursday morning till Sunday evening. KRS is a major tourist attraction, with the famous Brindavan Gardens. This year, monsoon has failed in Karnataka and out of the state's 176 taluks or revenue sub-division, the state has declared over 150 taluks drought hit. Of them 47 are in the state's Cauvery belt.
The Supreme Court's decision had its echo in the state assembly which on Wednesday began its winter session in Belgaum, about 500 km north of Karnataka. The opposition Congress led the demand that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state should not release water in view of the drought in the state. Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah of Congress, who hails from Mysore, urged the Jagadish Shettar government to take a firm stand on the issue. He was supported by leader of the Janata Dal-Secular group in the assembly H D Revanna.
Shettar assured the House that his government was committed to protecting the state's interests and a decision to release the water will not be taken in a hurry. The apex court directive to Karnataka on Wednesday followed failure of Shettar and his Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa to reach an agreement on sharing waters at their meeting here on Nov 29. The two met following Supreme Court's suggestion.