Bengaluru: Karnataka shut down on Friday protesting release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu, crippling normal life as well as disrupting work in hundreds of IT firms and back offices in India’s tech hub Bengaluru while Chief Minister Siddaramaiah asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to call for an immediate meeting to resolve the inter-state row.
Global software firms and many start-ups declared a holiday in support of the shutdown and due to the absence of public/private transport across the city.
“We will work on the next weekend to make up for the loss,” an Infosys spokesperson told IANS.
A Wipro spokesperson said the company was closed on Friday but would work on Saturday, which is normally an off-day.
Though the protest did not affect trains and flights, hundreds of passengers who alighted at the international airport here and at railway stations were stranded in the absence of buses and cabs.
“We were caught unaware by the shutdown and are at the railway station since morning,” said a passenger who came from Pune with his family.
“It is unfortunate Bengaluru is facing many shutdowns over some or the other issue,” lamented S.N. Murthy, a techie with a leading IT firm.
Drawing Modi’s attention to the unrest in the Cauvery basin on releasing 15,000 cusecs daily to Tamil Nadu for 10 days from Wednesday in compliance with the Supreme Court’s September 5 order, Siddaramaiah said any more release would deprive Bengaluru of drinking water and affect crops.
“The unrest, if continued, will also impact the livelihood of the common man adversely in large parts of the state,” the chief minister said in a letter to Modi and urged him to urgently convene a meeting of the chief ministers on the issue.
“I request you not only as Prime Minister, but also as head of the federal system to call a meeting of the chief ministers of the states at a few hours’ notice to resolve the impasse,” he said.
Citing a precedent, when under similar circumstances, the Supreme Court on December 28, 1995 requested then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to resolve the issue of implementation, which was “then duly done to the satisfaction of all parties,” the chief minister said the “unrest”, if continued, would have a serious impact on the state’s economy as also the IT economy, which brought enormous revenue and foreign exchange to the country.
Meanwhile, the state-run Bengaluru Metro Rail Corp, which suspended service during the shutdown, resumed operations after 6.15 p.m.
Earlier, the state government declared a holiday for all schools and colleges to avoid inconvenience to students and teachers in the absence of transport services. Similarly, factories, offices, banks, markets, shops, malls, hotels, eateries, pubs, bars, theatres and petrol bunks were closed in support of the shutdown.
“The shutdown was in protest against the Supreme Court’s order and to express resentment over the state government releasing the river water when we don’t have it for drinking and irrigation,” said strike leader, Vatal Nagaraj.
There were also huge protests by farmers, traders and youth in the Mysuru region.
Hundreds of people staged demonstrations and took out rallies in Bengaluru, Mandya, Mysuru and other cities and towns across the state.
About 5,000 people, including Kannada film stars, producers and directors, marched in a procession from Town Hall to Freedom Park here and urged the government to stop releasing water to Tamil Nadu.
Though the shutdown was peaceful, protesters burnt tyres in the centre of roads and highways to prevent movement of even private vehicles.
Mock funerals of Siddaramaiah and his Tamil Nadu counterpart Jayalalithaa were conducted in Bengaluru, Mandya, Davangere and Tumakuru.
Posters and placards carrying pictures of Siddaramaiah and Jayalalithaa were garlanded and slapped with footwear and carried on donkeys to express anger.
“We will give our blood but not Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. How can the government release our water to grow crops in another state when we don’t have enough of it for drinking?” asked activist, Pravin Shetty.
In Mandya district, police carried out baton charges and fired teargas shells to disperse protestors and clashing with rival groups.