News Wrap


Appointed by the Government of India on 02 June 1990, under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956), the Cauvery Disputes Tribunal submitted its final award in 2007. The government did not appoint a Cauvery Management Board to oversee the implementation of the award, and a Cauvery Waters Regulation Committee to assist the CMB, as mandated by the tribunal. The quantum of water for each of the four Cauvery Riparian States, viz Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Pondicherry, was decided by the tribunal after extensive study of the flow of water in the Cauvery System, for 100 years, and its utilisation by the four states. Article 262 of India’s Constitution and the Inter-States Water Disputes Act (1956), enacted by Parliament, states: ‘‘Neither the Supreme Court nor any other Court shall exercise jurisdiction’’ in respect to the use, distribution or control of the water of or, in any inter-state river or valley. Even though it had no jurisdiction, the Supreme Court in September 2016, ordered Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu. Agitations and violence over the sharing of the Cauvery River waters, have been continuing since 1991. There were violent protests and demonstrations in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in September 2016. The available water is insufficient to meet extensive paddy cultivation in the delta region of Tamil Nadu, or cash rich, water guzzling sugarcane cultivation in the Cauvery basin on the Karnataka side.

Disregarding people’s agitations, lacs of trees were cut in Coorg, where the Cauvery originates, for a new railway line to Mysore, and a high tension power line, which altered vastly the pattern of rainfall in the catchment area. Following Supreme Court directives, a Cauvery Management Board has been constituted recently. The flows of water in all the east flowing rivers south of the Vindhyas will significantly improve if a contour canal is built along the Sahyadri ranges of the Western Ghats, parallel to the Konkan Railways. Implementing the proposal to link the Hemavati, a Cauvery tributary, with the west flowing Netravati River, which drains into the Arabian Sea and divert the water eastwards to join the main Cauvery River, which traverses the entire width of Kanrataka and Tamil Nadu, before emptying into the Bay of Bengal, would augment flows into the Cauvery by almost 100%.

On the other hand, the Bhakra-Beas Management Board, constituted for the management of Bhakra Nangal and Beas Projects, regulates the supply of water from the Sutlej, the Ravi and the Beas rivers to the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi and the Union Territory of Chandigarh and distributes power from the projects to these states as well as Himachal Pradesh.

Brahmaputra in Assam
The Brahmaputra River, from its origins in the Himalayas in Southern Tibet, till it merges in the Bay of Bengal Sea in Bangladesh, covers a distance of 2880 kms. It flows for 916 kms in India. A severe earth-quake on 15 August 1950 in Assam, altered the course [and bed levels] of the Brahmaputra River and many other rivers. Since the 1950s, major floods have struck Assam around 25 times. The floods have ravaged Assam State every year, for the past six years. When the flood waters recede, hundreds of people remain stranded on patches of river islands, locally known as ‘‘char’’. Tapajuli Pathar is a river island, close to the Brahmaputra in lower Assam’s Barapeta district. In mid-July 2016, Tapajuli lost 54 houses, and scores of cattle. The pre-monsoon floods in Assam are an annual ritual in April and May, disrupting life in upper Assam. In 2016, floods had affected more than 2 million people across Assam State, resulting in over 40 deaths. The frequent and intense floods force thousands to migrate from the river banks, changing human settlement patterns. Migration has led to ethnic friction in lower Assam, especially in the region bordering the Bodoland region. Bengali-speaking Muslims who are displaced, are often assumed to be illegal immigrants, from bordering Bangladesh. The villagers are part of an economy that remains largely rural and agrarian. About 87% of the total land available in Assam state is for agricultural cultivation, which mostly falls under the Brahmaputra River basin. People have developed raised hand pumps and houses on stilts in flood prone areas. When there are early floods, crops predominantly rice and jute are lost, in Tapajuli Pathar ‘‘char’’which is inhabited by over 1800 Bengali speaking Muslims.

In the dry season, large chunks of land crumble from the edges of banks, into the river. Nearly 40,000 houses were eroded in the past six years. The districts of Dhubri, Jorhat and Barpeta are the worst affected by river bank erosion. Most of the ‘‘char’’ villages are located in these districts. Sorrounded by the river, ‘‘char’’ islands are accessible only by boat. A small piece of land, away from the river costs Rs 3 to 5 lacs in Assam. World climate change has meant frequent and erratic rainfall. Conflict between Bodos and outsiders, often Bengali-speaking Muslims has been simmering since the early 1980s. The loss in agricultural land, belonging to the people from the ‘‘char-chaporis’’, has brought them in direct conflict with the people in urban centres.

Waiting for Justice
The judiciary in India is beset by mounting court arrears. The Union Law Ministry is aware that 60,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, around four million in the State High Courts and 27 million in the lower courts. Assuming that no new cases are filed, it will take more than 300 years to dispose off, the pending accumulation of more than 30 million court cases. There is a backlog of vacancies of judges in the various courts. In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court affirms that the right to a speedy trial is now a Fundamental Right.

‘Just War’
Vatican diplomats had backed a United Nations resolution in 2016 calling for military intervention to stop ISIS. Pope John Paul II opposed the Gulf and Iraq wars. Backing of armed conflict by the Catholic Church is increasingly rare. The concept of ‘‘jus ad bellum’’ (Just War) is held by theologians and the international courts as the test for the use of military force. First formulated by the 4th Century Bishop St Augustine of Hippo and developed in the 13th Century by St Thomas Aquinas, it enabled rulers to wage battles, without incurring sanctions from the Church. The catholic teaching sets out conditions for war, including the need for a justified cause and proper authorisation. After a landmark conference in Rome in April 2016, that called for the Church to embrace pacifism, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, one of Pope Francis’ senior most aides, urged Pope Francis to overturn the centuries-old doctrine of ‘‘Just War’’. The creed has granted Catholics the right to engage in armed conflict. Cardinal Turkson’s drive threatens to put the Church at odds with Catholics, serving in uniform across the world. Pope Francis and Cardinal Turkson both concede that countries have the right to defend themselves.

Post Coup Turkey
Since 1960, Turkey’s military has seized and held power four times. In the 15 July 2016 coup, some military units were provoked into coup action, precisely to then allow Turkey President Recep Erdogan’s forces to launch a pre-planned counter coup. Armoured units went on to the streets and bridges. Bloody violence ensued. Erdogan’s Islamic AK Party has been in power since 2002. There has been impressive economic progress in Turkey, but Erdogan has embraced the trappings of an autocratic Sultan. Fethulla Gulen, an Islamic cleric who was once an Erdogan ally, but who now lives in exile in USA, has become the focus for Erdogan’s rancour. Systematic purge of suspected ‘‘Gulenist Factions’’ has extended to the military, police, media, school teachers and civil servents. The purge is over 65,000 in the aftermath of the uprising. Turkey’s large secular Muslim community is facing increasing pressures from AK Zeolots. Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule mixes Islam, with high octave nationalism.

Vol. 49, No.25, Dec 25 - 31, 2016