Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Constitutional Necessity of Separation

Part II

People of Telangana agitated for more than half a century against inequitable distribution of Krishna and Godavari river waters between the sub-regions of Andhra and Telangana. As the 10 Telangana districts of undivided AP were not having legal capacity to raise a complaint against injustice in water allocation, the demand for separate State gained strength. I have individually represented before Justice Srikrishna Committee that there is a constitutional necessity behind the demand for Telangana State. The former Supreme Court Judge (Srikrishna) and Vice Chancellor of Law University (NALSAR vc Prof Ranbir Singh) asked several questions on that point. Only a state government can raise an inter-state river water dispute as per the Constitution. It is the state alone that can invoke original jurisdiction of Supreme Court. Being a sub-region and not a state, it is technically incapacitated from knocking the doors of Krishna or Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal.

The issue of over exploitation of rivers by upper riparian states could be questioned only by a state. The Andhra Pradesh Government never took up the cause of deprivation of Telangana by upper riparian states at inter-state forum or Supreme Court. Even when the cases came up, the Andhra rulers did not instruct engineers or experts or lawyers to defend the interests of Telangana. While internally the rivers were taken away from Telangana without catering to that region’s irrigation or even drinking needs, which goes unchallenged at any fora. The hostility against Telangana was aggravated because engineers were predominantly belonging to Andhra region and Media was also not raising these issues because of their regional bias. Those who settled in Telangana were deliberately silent allowing the hijacking of rivers to their ancestral villages. There was no fraternity or equity and that caused the emotional anger and divide. Depicting the language and slant of Telangana in insulting manner in print, TV and film media added fuel to the fire. Depriving Telangana of equitable share in waters, jobs and funds was the sole, if not substantial, cause of the agitation which took many human-lives either in police firing or by suicides for division of State.

Injustice to Telangana

When seventy per cent of Krishna flows in Telangana, why should it get less than fifty per cent of share? It is a common-sense question of equity and the issue of equality as per the Constitution under Articles 21 and 14. The argument that you have a right to life and water is essential, but water dispute can be settled by Tribunal, hence even if equality or living rights are affected the SC cannot look into is an absurdity absolutely against the rule of law. This is the contextual background for the demand for reallocation of the shares between all the riparian states of these two rivers. To say no to it is an arbitrary conclusion without any rationale.

Ministry of Jal Shakti (Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation) has issued a NOTIFICATION from New Delhi, on the 15th July, 2021 with number: S.O. 2842 (E). It  has serious implications for two Telugu states- Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Seven years after their constitution, the Centre decided their ‘jurisdiction’, which, according to the notification, means transferring the operations of all projects including hydel generation to itself. It is not just transferring the controls but entire asset- lock stock and barrel – being divested from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and vesting them in Union, through the nomenclature of River Management Boards.

Also read: CJI’s worthy solution to Water Dispute

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.

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