The last week’s detention of Goa’s water resource department (WRD) officials on visit to Kankumbi in Karnataka to check the status of work being carried out by the neighbouring state on the diversion of water from the River Mhadei has raised concerns and Water Resources Minister Vinod Palyekar has promised appropriate steps would be taken for the security of officials visiting the site in future.
The government would seek opinion of additional solicitor general Atmaram Nadkarni and advocate general Dattaprasad Lawande on the security of WRD officials. The officials were told by Karnataka police to obtain prior permission from Belgavi district administration in future. The excuse of the Karnataka police is that a prior permission is meant for the security of Goa’s officials, as some local groups engaged in fight for Mhadei diversion might try to hurt them. The state government must take it up seriously with the Karnataka government. The government should provide police security to WRD officials whenever they visit Mhadei sites. The officials are only discharging their duties and must not be subjected to any harassment.
The Belagavi district police has decided to set up a police outpost at the Kalsa-Bhanduri worksite in the Khanapur taluka. Karnataka’s concerned Inspector General of Police Alok Kumar has said that the outpost was being set up to ensure the security of visiting Goa officials. The Karnataka police have justified setting up of the police outpost by claiming that it was necessitated by the frequent unscheduled visits of officials from Goa. “By setting up the outpost we want to avoid any untoward incident,” the Karnataka police says.
The requirement for Goan officials to seek permission from Karnataka administration before visiting the site where illegalities are being allegedly committed to deprive Goa of Mhadei waters is arbitrary. There is a possibility that the Karnataka police would sit on the application from Goa for permission or deny it on grounds of law and order. There are apprehensions among Goan officials that the police outpost was being set up to monitor the movement of ministers and officials from Goa to the site. Is it a ployof the Karnataka government to gain time to take steps to conceal the works and remove heavy machinery before Goan officials arrive?
The Karnataka government has not adhered to directions from the Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal and the Supreme Court. Their disobedience has forcedthe Goa government to file a contempt of court petition in the apex court. Some organisations and groups in Karnataka resorted to a violent agitation every time the decision of the court or tribunal went against Karnataka. Goa’s WRD officials have been frequently visiting the controversial site of construction of the diversion nullah. However,it was the first time they were detained.
There is a strong and reasonable feeling that Karnataka officials were trying to deter Goa’s officials from collecting evidence against their state about the illegal diversions and constructions being made.There is a possibility of someone from the Karnataka administration leaking the news of arrival of Goan officials, if they seek permission in advance, to local groups who might attack Goan officials. The Goa government should not allow the Karnataka government to prevent their officials from visiting any site for collecting physical evidence first hand. The restrictions must be removed. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar should take it up with Chief Minister of Karnataka Kumaraswamy if the issue cannot be resolved at official levels.
The Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal is expected to give its verdict this month. If the verdict is not to the satisfaction of the agitating sections in Karnataka it could lead to law and order problem in certain parts of the state. The dispute over the manner of sharing of the Mhadei waters has been an emotional issue between Karnataka and Goa for decades. Although certain organisations in Karnataka have made it an ethnic issue, the issue touches most farmers and other residents in certain districts of Karnataka. In these districts the emotions are more inflammable.
Indeed, there is a danger of unrestrained and unscrupulous elements causing harm to Goan officials during their visit to the Mhadei diversion sites. However, the blame primarily goes to the Karnataka government that has for political expedience sanctioned funds for and allowed constructions of nullahs for inter-basin transfer of water from the Mhadei basin to the Malprabha river basin. Had Karnataka not allowed these constructions in defiance of the directives of the apex court and the tribunal there would have been no need for Goa to send officials for on-the-spot checks.