The services of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation might be affected on September 26 as the KSRTC Staff and Worker Federation extended their support for the 'Bengaluru Bandh'. The pro-Kannada outfits, political groups and farmer's associations have called the strike to protest against the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.
The announcement for the Karnataka bandh on September 29 was made on Monday, under the banner 'Kannada Okkuta' -- led by Kannada activist Vatal Nagaraj, days after the 'Karnataka Jala Samrakshana Samiti', an umbrella outfit of farmers’ associations and other organisations led by farmer leader Kuruburu Shanthakumar gave the call for Tuesday's Bengaluru shutdown.
The two bandhs reflect the divide among the farmers and pro-Kannada organisations, and has also now led to a confusion about who is supporting the bandh on which day, and whether services will be available tomorrow.
What remains closed?
According to Times Now, the KSRTC Staff and Workers Federation released a statement on the matter where they said, "Over 195 taluks in the state are facing drought due to lack of rain. The water in all the reservoirs in the state is not sufficient for use. The rain forecast is also not promising. In this situation, it is not possible to allow 5,000 cusecs of water from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu every day. Several political parties, pro-Kannada organisations and others across the state have already joined the struggle for justice."
It further said, "The agitation has increased in the Kaveri region. In this background, Bengaluru Bandh has been called on 26.09.2023. Our federation fully supports the bandh call. We call upon all the employees to make the bandh successful without running any buses from 6am to 6pm in all the units of the BMTC. We believe that the bandh will be successful without any kind of incitement and threats."
Other than the regular buses, public transport like taxi services will also be affected. As, the president of Ola, Uber Drivers and Owners Association, Tanveer Pasha has shared his decision to support the cause of the strike and told the media, "There will be no compromise when it comes to land, language, and water. Without any second thoughts, we support the bandh."
What remains open?
The schools in the city will remain open as the students have exams in the following days, Shashikumar who is the general secretary of the private schools union said that they will be showcasing their support for the bandh by donning a black band on their arms.
The president of the Bengaluru Hotel Owner's Association, PC Rao has said that they will provide moral support to the strikers.
Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited will continue to provide the services of Namma Metro in the city on September 26. Hospitals will also be open without being affected by the bandh.
What are the Karnataka leaders saying?
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday said his government will not curtail them, but underlined the importance of maintenance of peace.
The Chief Minister also said the state government will place its argument more forcefully before the Supreme Court on the issue, when it next comes up for hearing and is committed to protecting the interest of the state.
"We had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the orders of the Cauvery Water Management Authority, and Regulation Committee. The court rejected our partition, also Tamil Nadu's. They (TN) initially sought 24,000 cusecs, then 7,200 cusecs, we said we can't even give 5,000 cusecs, as there is no water," Siddaramaiah said.
Speaking to reporters here, he said, "The Apex Court did not accept it, and the matter is coming before the Court on September 26. We will place our argument more forcefully."
Responding to a question on protests and bandhs being called on the Cauvery issue, the CM said, "in a democracy, we (government) will not curtail protests, but BJP and JD(S) is trying to do politics on the issue."
To a query on BJP and JD(S) asking the government to resign and go, he said, "...they are doing politics, what else will they say, they did not say it during the all party meeting."
JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy said his party would support tomorrow's bandh. "I have asked my party workers to support the bandh. Our workers will support. There should be no chance for any untoward incident," he said.
Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar also said that the people have the right to protest but that there should be no violence. Addressing media here, he said, protest is everyone's right in a democracy and it will not be curtailed.
"Our party people too called and spoke to me about the protest, I said, it's your right and protect it...but one has to understand about court orders before calling for protests or bandh, just giving such calls for media publicity is not right, as such calls may have legal repercussions," he said, adding that keeping everything in mind, let them decide.
If the public doesn't cooperate, the bandh will not have any value, said Shivakumar, citing alleged lack of consensus among the organisations on the bandh call, and two bandhs being called. "The government will not interfere in it."
City police are taking all adequate security measures to ensure that no untoward incident takes place, officials reportedly told PTI.
Protest in Karnataka so far
The protest against the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu continued in Mandya, the Cauvery heartland started on Saturday and continued till Sunday.
Farmers and various pro-Kannada organisations staged a sit-in demonstration at Sanjay Circle here demanding justice. Holding placards and banners, the protesters raised slogans asking the state government to stop the release of water to the neighbouring state.
They alleged that there is inadequate water in the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam for drinking water supply, let alone to meet the irrigation requirements of farmlands in the agriculture-dominated district.
The Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and Cauvery Water Rakshana Horata Samiti spearheaded the agitation from the morning.
The protests have been happening for the past few days and intensified on Saturday when ‘Mandya Bandh’ was observed.
Last week, the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) directed Karnataka to continue releasing 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for another 15 days, after the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) made such a recommendation last week.
The Supreme Court too refused to interfere with orders of the CWMA and CWRC, following which protests erupted in different parts of the state.
Karnataka has been maintaining that it is not in a position to release water, taking into account its own requirement for drinking water and irrigation of standing crops in the Cauvery basin areas, as there has been water scarcity due to deficit monsoon rains.
(With PTI inputs)