Rallies hit Bangalore before shutdown over Cauvery row
A number of rallies Friday over the release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu severely hit traffic movement in Bangalore as Karnataka braced for a state-wide shutdown over the issue Saturday.
The 12-hour shutdown from 6 a.m. is likely to be near total in Bangalore and the Cauvery basin districts of Mandya, Mysore and Chamarajanagar. A good response to the shutdown is expected in other parts of the state as the ruling BJP as well as the opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) are supporting it.
The shutdown will not have much impact on IT firms in Bangalore as most of them have their weekly holiday on Saturday.
Hospitals and supply of milk and newspapers would not be affected as they are exempted from a shutdown.
Karnataka Home Minister R. Ashoka told reporters here Friday that adequate security arrangements would be made -- particularly in Bangalore, where a large number of Tamil-speaking people live -- to ensure peace during the shutdown.
The protest is against the Sep 19 decision of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu from Sep 20 to Oct 15.
Karnataka, however, started releasing water only last Saturday following a directive from the Supreme Court, which pulled up the state government for not obeying the CRA order.
Karnataka is against release of water on the grounds that the state has been hit by the worst drought in 40 years and reservoirs have barely enough water to meet the state's needs till the monsoon arrives next June.
The state has been witnessing daily protest demonstrations in Bangalore, Mandya, Mysore, and Chamarajanagar and several others parts of the state since Sunday.
Road and rail traffic between Bangalore and Mysore has been hit for several hours daily since Sunday as roads were blocked, mainly in Mandya district.
Ahead of Saturday's shutdown, Bangalore Friday saw a massive 8-km-long rally taken out by Karnataka Rakshna Vedike (Karnataka protection forum) from the National College grounds in south Bangalore to Freedom Park in the city centre.
Religious leaders and several Kannada film actors led the march.
Former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and hundreds of his supporters staged a day-long protest at M.G. Road.
A separate rally was organised by the JD-S.
The protests coincided with the visit of a team of central government officials at the Cauvery basin areas to assess water availability and requirement of Karnataka.
Another team is visiting Tamil Nadu for the same purpose. The two teams are expected to submit their reports within a week to the central government.
The Supreme Court has fixed Monday to hear the Karnataka government's petition seeking a stay on its directive to release the water.