Address Telangana’s water demands

Since proceedings under Sec 89 is unlikely to be of much help, a proactive approach from the Centre is essential

By Author Salla Vijaya Kumar   |   Published: 29th May 2019   12:05 am Updated: 28th May 2019   9:18 pm

Five years ago, while the people in Telangana were jubilant on the formation of the new State, those at the helm of affairs of the State were apprehensive about the contents of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. Especially, on the water front for they feared that Telangana’s grievances may not be addressed.

Meanwhile, in May 2014, in accordance with Section 89 of the Act, the Union government extended the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-II (KWDT-II), popularly known as Brijesh Kumar Tribunal. While continuing to participate in the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal, Telangana also approached other constitutional and judicial processes for redressal of its grievances. After five years, the State is still struggling for justice.

Proceedings So Far

In the first two years of Section – 89 proceedings, ie, till the 19th October 2016 Order of the Tribunal, the main issue before it was whether the scope encompasses all the four riparian States or only two successor States of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh argued in favour of involving all the four States, and Maharashtra and Karnataka were in favour of two States only. The Tribunal clarified that it is only between the two States.

Telangana filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court in January 2019 for staying the Tribunal Order but the court dismissed it. Since then, the Tribunal proceedings are going on at a brisk pace and it is more than halfway through. Within a year or so, the final decision of the Tribunal is expected under Section 89. In the middle of 2017, AP also filed an SLP for stay, which was dismissed.

Section-3 and Writ Petition

In July 2014, Telangana filed a complaint under Section 3 of ISRWD Act, 1956, to the Union government seeking redressal of its grievances. Since the complaint was not referred to a Tribunal within the stipulated one year, in August 2015, Telangana filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking to give directions to the Union government to refer the complaint pending before it.

Special Leave Petitions

The KWDT-II gave its decision in 2010 and 2013. A stay on the publication of the verdict was granted by the Supreme Court when SLPs were filed by erstwhile Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Later, Telangana also filed SLPs for the same purpose raising some of its own grounds.

Hearings on the writ petition and SLPs were postponed several times. However, this April, the Supreme Court took up the hearing and further posted it for July 8, 2019, by tagging SLPs and writ petition together.

Views of Other States

Regarding the Section 3 complaint, it can be observed from its short affidavit before the Supreme Court in December 2015 that the Union government is of the opinion that the allocations already made to Maharashtra and Karnataka shall not be changed. Analysts say that Maharashtra and Karnataka seem to be quite satisfied with the allocations made by the KWDT-II and are insisting on vacation of stay on the publication of the KWDT-II report.

They, along with the Central government, are not in favour of reopening of the earlier decision of KWDT-II.

Andhra Pradesh too seems to be interested in keeping the present ad hoc reallocations done by erstwhile AP intact, and is not interested in the reopening of the earlier decisions. To a large extent, the present references under Section 89 are acceptable to them.

But Telangana will suffer the most following the outcome of the proceedings under Section 89. Hence, a prudent and prompt future course of action is needed from Telangana.

Telangana has been persistently of the view that the scope of Section 89 is limited and would not address all its grievances. However, it has been participating in the proceedings before the KWDT-II under Section 89 for the
last five years.

Experts feel that the Supreme Court’s verdict last year in the Cauvery case looked into the appeal of the party States against the report and decision of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT). The court made only slight modifications to the CWDT’s decision and finalised the mechanism for implementation. The apex court generally will not undo several years of hard work put in by a Tribunal.

Hence, after the KWDT-II gives its final report under Section 89, Telangana may not get the opportunity to get its grievances addressed by appealing to the Supreme Court. Therefore, pursuing Section 3 complaint with the Central government may be taken up earnestly by the Telangana government.

Experts also point out ambiguities in the submissions of Telangana such as whether the KWDT-I decision is a closed one or amenable to being reopened, and whether the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, has an overriding effect on the proviso to Section-4(1) of ISRWD Act, 1956. These ambiguities may be rectified before the SLPs and writ plea are taken up by the Supreme Court.

Circumstances have changed in the recent past and the Tribunal should also consider these changes. For instance, diversion of Godavari waters from Pattiseema since 2015, reduced flows to Jurala from upper States because of sanction of Polavaram project and non-realisation of even 50% waters for minor irrigation in Telangana for the past several years.

Keeping all the above circumstances and other considerations in view, Chief Minister of Telangana K Chandrashekhar Rao had already written to the Central government to refer the complaint under Section 3 to a Tribunal by limiting the scope between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The complaint already made under Section-3 should be modified, if required. The same should be reflected in the writ petition before the Supreme Court.

The People of Telangana are eagerly awaiting an early response from the Union government.

(The author is Secretary, Telangana Engineers JAC)