We as north Indians often learn of the Kaveri water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, two important southern states of India. Quite often, one also wonders why issues like this cannot be settled amicably and what is so great about sharing river water. We also tend to blame politicians for not solving such problems. While this may be true to some extent, such matters are not so simple because behind such issues lie the genuine needs and sentiments of people. I realised this truth during my visit to Tamil Nadu in the year 1999 as election observer for the parliamentary election. The incident goes like this: During the course of this duty, I also had the opportunity of visiting Madurai, the place famous for the Meenakshi Temple. While returning from there to the place of duty, the car passed through an area which is the best in paddy cultivation and called the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu. My escorting officer told me that it was the Kaveri basin area and that the success of crops was mainly dependent on irrigation from the Kaveri water. The area looked so beautiful that I asked the driver to stop for some time in order to watch the fields and enjoy the beauty of the lush green paddy crop. I had not seen such a beautiful paddy-field ever before and so, I spent almost half an hour in the fields.
As we started travelling again, we soon crossed the Kaveri river, which is split into four or five streams in that area. Meanwhile, the issue of the Kaveri water dispute came to my mind and all my previous perception about it disappeared. I could easily feel the need and sentiments of the farmers who are the beneficiaries of the Kaveri water. Perhaps, the same need and sentiments exist in Karnataka also. The accompanying officer told me that the whole livelihood of this area depended on paddy and if the crop fails, people face tremendous problems. I was silently agreeing with him.
The point being made here is not that the dispute should not be sorted out amicably. That it should be done is very necessary but the complication of such issues should be appreciated against the background of people’s needs and sentiments. The joy of a lush green crop, to me, is invaluable and the mere sight of it was enough to give me the kind of happiness which no amount of money can buy. Therefore, in order to expand our personality, it is necessary to understand the feelings of others also, without always judging them and looking at the issues only from the point of view of economics or politics.