Prime concern: Water wars
Unquiet flows the Cauvery

By Shubhadeep Choudhury
The century-old Cauvery issue is an emotional one. Several agreements have been signed but these have failed to address the issue of sharing waters of the rain-fed river in the event of monsoon failure.

Last word: RAJAT K GUPTA
The good man who ended up bad
By Ashish Kumar Sen
An inspiration for Indians hoping to make it big on the world platform, one misstep has brought the US corporate hero to ignominy, and turned his tale into a lesson on integrity in public life.






Prime concern: Water wars
Unquiet flows the Cauvery
By Shubhadeep Choudhury

The century-old Cauvery issue is an emotional one. Several agreements have been signed but these have failed to address the issue of sharing waters of the rain-fed river in the event of monsoon failure.

800-km course

Cauvery originates in Coorg district of Karnataka and takes an easterly course, passing through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu before joining the Bay of Bengal. About 320 km of the river is in Karnataka and 416 km in Tamil Nadu. The remaining length of 64 km forms the common boundary between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The catchment area is about 34,273 sq km in Karnataka, 2,866 sq km in Kerala and about 44,016 sq km in Tamil Nadu.

Had there been a good monsoon, there would have been no Cauvery agitation this time around. It would not have been necessary for Karnataka to stop releasing waters to Tamil Nadu, disregarding a Supreme Court directive. Tamil Nadu also would not have petitioned the Supreme Court, accusing Karnataka of contempt of court.

Similar events had taken place in 2002 and 1995 when monsoon had failed. The interim order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in 1991 and the final order in 2007 have ignored the issue of water sharing between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, principal beneficiaries of the rain-fed Cauvery, during a year of inadequate rainfall. However, it is doubtful that even if the tribunal had suggested a formula, Karnataka, which is the upper riparian state, would have honoured the arrangement.

Just like Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar did last month, the then Chief Minister of Karnataka, SM Krishna, walked out of a meeting of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) in 2002, when Tamil Nadu had filed a contempt petition in the Supreme Court against Karnataka for stopping the supply of waters before the period stipulated by the apex court.

There were agitations in both states in 2002 over the issue, which received vocal support from political parties and various other quarters, including film actors who enjoy iconic status in their respective states. Fortunately, monsoon was good in 2004 and washed away the bitterness.

This time, while the major political parties of Karnataka — the BJP, Congress and Janata Dal (S) — have tried to outdo one another to show their concern, actors, barring actor-turned-politician Ambareesh, have not jumped into the fray.

In Tamil Nadu, the megastar Rajnikanth (born to Marathi-speaking parents in Bangalore and did his elementary education in Kannada) identifies with the Tamil cause, but has refrained from speaking out.

The current crisis can be traced to September 19 when the river authority headed by the Prime Minister asked Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of waters every day to Karnataka till October 15. Tamil Nadu had demanded 24,000 cusecs while the Supreme Court had asked Karnataka to release 10,000 cusecs. The CRA awarded the release of 9,000 cusecs. After the order was upheld by the court, Karnataka started releasing the waters. This sparked off protests in Karnataka, forcing it to stop the supply on October 8, saying it did not have enough waters.

The history of the Cauvery dispute goes back to over 100 years. In the middle of the 19th century, the princely state of Mysore wanted to build new irrigation projects. This caused anxiety to Madras, which was dependent on Cauvery. The then British government of Madras took up the case with the Mysore government and the Government of India. An agreement was reached in 1892.

River tribunal

In 1910, Mysore formulated a proposal for a reservoir on the Cauvery and sought the consent of the Madras government, which opposed it. The dispute was referred for arbitration. The proceedings began in 1913 and concluded in 1914. The award was not acceptable to Madras. After negotiations, another agreement was signed in 1924. Fresh disputes arose between the two states (now known as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka) in the late 60s when Karnataka started constructing four irrigation projects on the tributaries of the Cauvery.

In August 1971, Tamil Nadu filed a suit before the Supreme Court, with a prayer to direct the Centre to constitute a tribunal as per the provisions of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, to restrain Karnataka. In 1990, the court asked the Centre to set up a tribunal.

While the tribunal’s interim order prescribing 205 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) of waters to Tamil Nadu annually led to protests in Karnataka, its final order in 2007, asking for 192 TMC of waters for Tamil Nadu, also failed to satisfy the parties concerned. Both awards had stipulated the monthly release figures of water.

Though Tamil Nadu got relief whenever it approached the court, Karnataka has cut off the water supply, resulting in bad blood. The issue is an emotional one in Karnataka and political parties cannot ignore the sentiment once activists hit the streets. The late S Guhan, a civil servant of Tamil Nadu, is often remembered in this connection. He felt that a people-to-people dialogue had to be initiated to resolve the issue. In 1992, he convened a meeting that was attended by politicians and farmers. A decade after his death, the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) and representatives of farmers from both states formed the Cauvery Family. The recent row has seen cracks developing in this forum.

What is the dispute

Karnataka, the upper riparian state, has stopped releasing Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu, disregarding a Supreme Court directive. Tamil Nadu has petitioned the apex court, accusing Karnataka of contempt of court. The interim order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (1991) and the final order in 2007 have ignored the issue of water sharing during a year of inadequate rainfall. The lacunae have returned to haunt the states again and again.

How it all began

19th century: Mysore wanted to build irrigation projects
1892: British government of Madras took up issue with Government of India; agreement between Madras and Mysore governments

1910: Mysore formulated proposal for a reservoir; sought consent of Madras

1914: Conflict referred for arbitration; award not acceptable to Madras

1924: Another agreement between Madras and Mysore

Late 60s: Fresh dispute arose when Karnataka started work on irrigation projects on tributaries

1971: TN moved Supreme Court to direct Centre to set up tribunal to restrain Karnataka

1990: Supreme Court asked Centre to set up tribunal

1991: Interim order prescribes 205 TMC of waters to Tamil Nadu annually

2007: Final order allows for 192 TMC of waters for Tamil Nadu

Karnataka’s claims

  • Erstwhile Mysore was not allowed to exercise its powers over the utilisation of waters for irrigation because of protests by the lower riparian province of Madras controlled by the British.
  • Storage of the waters could be achieved only in 1931, after the construction of the Krishnaraja Sagara Dam (capacity 44.8 TMC).
  • By 1934, Madras had completed the Mettur Dam for storing 93.5 TMC of Cauvery waters, enabling cultivation of over 3,00,000 acres of new area. After the formation of Karnataka, covering the areas of Mysore and others, over 42 per cent of the drainage area of the Cauvery basin fell in Karnataka.
  • Hilly regions of the Western Ghats receive heavy rainfall, but Mysore, Mandya, Hassan, Tumkur, Bangalore and Kolar are plagued by drought.
  • Eastern basin in Tamil Nadu receives heavy north-east monsoon while the central part receives both south-west and north-east monsoon.

Tamil Nadu’s stand

  • Karnataka has constructed Kabini, Hemavathy, Harangi and Suvarnavathy reservoirs, besides other projects, for storing the Cauvery waters, much beyond the limit stipulated in the 1924 agreement.
  • This has diminished the supply of waters to Tamil Nadu, adversely affecting the Ayacutdars (farmers) who have been dependent on the Cauvery for centuries.



Last word: RAJAT K GUPTA
The good man who ended up bad
By Ashish Kumar Sen

An inspiration for Indians hoping to make it big on the world platform, one misstep has brought the US corporate hero to ignominy, and turned his tale into a lesson on integrity in public life.

Rajat K. Gupta scaled the highest peaks of his profession. At the top, he rubbed shoulders with Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Kofi Annan. In the November of 2009, when US President Barack Obama hosted his Administration’s first state dinner in honour of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Gupta and his wife Anita were among those to be invited to the exclusive soiree.

Gupta’s life was an inspiration. He was living the American dream.

But that dream turned into a nightmare less than two years ago.

Gupta, the Kolkota-born former director of Goldman Sachs and former global head of McKinsey & Co, was charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission with illegally leaking corporate secrets to Raj Rajaratnam that helped the Sri Lankan-born hedge fund manager’s firm secure profits or avoid losses of $23 million. Prosecutors said Gupta stood to gain because of his business partnerships with Rajaratnam, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison last October for insider trading.

The jury agreed. And on October 24, a judge in New York sentenced Gupta to two years in prison and ordered him to pay a $5 million fine for securities fraud. Prosecutors had asked for more than 10 years. Gupta had sought probation and a community service programme that included helping the poor and sick in Rwanda. He plans to appeal his conviction.

“The last 18 months have been the most challenging period of my life since I lost my parents as a teenager. I have lost my reputation that I have built over a lifetime,” a remorseful Gupta told US District Judge Jed Rakoff before being informed of his fate. “The verdict was devastating to my family, my friends and me.... I want to say here that I regret terribly the impact of this matter on my family, my friends and the institutions that are dear to me,” he added.

Gupta’s family and some of his friends have stuck by him. Many wrote glowing letters of support to the court, praising Gupta’s service and philanthropy. Gates wrote that Gupta’s contributions “have made a real difference in the lives of literally millions of people around the world.” The avalanche of accolades prompted Wall Street Journal columnist Al Lewis to write: “Before former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director Rajat Gupta reports to prison on Dec. 11, someone should nominate him for sainthood. Gupta, 63 years old, has committed more acts of loving kindness than any felon I can name. Judging from letters that people sent to U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, he is practically on par with Mother Teresa.”

Rakoff said there was little doubt that Gupta was “a good man”. But, he added, “the history of this country and the world, I’m afraid, is full of examples of good men who do bad things.”

High rise

Gupta’s rise to the top was meteoric and, in some ways, without precedent. He shattered Corporate America’s proverbial glass ceiling when he became the first non-white and non-US-born head of McKinsey & Co.

An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, Gupta earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1973 and went on to join the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

He was affiliated with several organisations, some of which he served as a board member, while others benefited from his counsel. He was a senior adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and served on the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which he also chaired in 2007.

It is his association with three non-profits linked to the land of his birth that Gupta cherishes the most. He helped found the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, the America India Foundation and the Public Health Foundation of India. Gupta, incidentally, met Rajaratnam almost 10 years ago through their work for the Indian School of Business, to which Rajaratnam was a major donor. “I love these institutions as if they were my own children,” Gupta told the court. “I never want to hurt them in any way. It is a great disappointment that I have not been able to serve with any of these institutions during this time and may not be able to do so going forward. Most importantly, I regret terribly any potential damage to their outstanding reputations.”

Gupta will trade life in his lavish waterfront mansion in Westport, Connecticut, for a prison cell.

So why did he squander what to outsiders was a near-perfect life?

One explanation is the tremendous pressure on well-educated Indian immigrants to the US in the 1970s to be successful. This was especially true for those who came from elite educational institutions like the IITs. Under this burden of expectations, shortcuts to success, while not always legal, are viewed as attractive opportunities.

Another, more cynical, explanation is that Indian immigrants brought to America’s shores their contempt for the law. Gupta would never have been sent to prison, let alone be brought to trial, had this happened in India, is the general opinion offered by most Indians.

The release of a wiretapped conversation between Gupta and Rajaratnam shaped much of the opinion against Gupta. The SEC said the conversation was one of several between the two in 2008, in which Gupta illegally shared corporate information with Rajaratnam.

Gupta would frequently quote the Bhagawad Gita in his public remarks, many of which were, ironically, devoted to integrity.

Family pain

His downfall has most affected his tight-knit family. “My family has always meant the world to me,” he told the court. “The extended family has been devastated... Every time I look at their faces, I get overcome with a deep sense of letting them down... It is unbearable to me to see how much they have suffered. I just feel terribly that I have put them through this.”

United States attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara, who is also Indian America, said of Gupta, “His conduct has forever tarnished a once-sterling reputation that took years to cultivate.”

“We hope that others who might consider breaking the securities laws will take heed from this sad occasion and choose not to follow in Mr Gupta’s footsteps,” the prosecutor added.

Gupta will report to a minimum security prison on January 8.

A life that was once an inspiration to so many has now turned into a cautionary tale.



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