“I am an advocate of one country, one state. On the one hand we talk of one Government for the whole world, but on the other there are people who raise their eye-brows if somebody moots the idea of one government for the whole of Bharat. As a matter of fact, Bharat should have a unitary type of government and in the place of provincial governments we should have different units based on administrative convenience and security concerns. Today our leaders talk of a Maharashtrian culture, a Gujarat culture and so on. But the fact is we have but one culture from Himalayas to Kanyakumari, which is the very heart and soul of our nation.” — Shri Guruji (Golwalkar), in SHRI GURUJI Pioneer of A New Era, A biography of M. S. Golwalkar (1906-1973), C. P. BHISHIKAR (Translated into English by SUDHAKAR RAJE), SAHITYA SINDHU PRAKASHANA, Bangalore, 1999
Almost 20 years ago, Thomas Homer-Dixon, famous strategic expert working in Toronto University of Canada, predicted that after the first Gulf War most of the forthcoming conflicts would be rooted in resource scarcity. At the same time, to a report by the UN on water wars, he cautioned that this sensationalism distracts the public’s attention from the real results of water scarcity. Shortages reduce food production, aggravate poverty and disease, spur large migrations, and undermine a state’s moral authority and capacity to govern. Over time, these stresses can tear apart a poor society’s social fabric, causing chronic popular unrest and violence. When we see the latest eruption of violence in Cauvery basin over water distribution, the similar kind of sensationalism has been played, raising three fundamental questions.
Civilisationally, our national life revolved around 23 river basins. There are environmental and cultural peculiarities of each of these river bodies. If we take the case of Cauvery basin, then for the planning purpose present states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Union Territory of Puducherry constitute the river valley. This basin has kept this whole region connected with each other and distinguished them from the Godavari or Krishna river valleys. If water that was unifying force in our civilisation, then why it has become a source of division is the basic question we would ponder over.
This takes us to another important issue of ‘language as the sole basis of State reorganisation’. As evident from the ongoing tensions and previous incarnation of the same, the water distribution issue has turned into a linguistic feud. Not only RSS but Bharatiya Jana Sangh and many other leaders like Dr Babasaheb B R Ambedkar and K M Munshi had warned against the “One language, One state” policy, which many of them feared would translate into sub-nationalism. Besides the core principle of linguistic reorganisation, we should deliberate over what can be other parameters to govern the ‘national commons’ like water resources.
Technically speaking, Constitution has already included ‘Regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys’ in the Union List. So as per the vision of our Constitution makers, Union Government has the final say on matters of inter-State water management. But with increasing needs and growing economy, this issue will not be limited to states but also will percolate down to District and local communities, as already witnessed in some parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat, so local participation is essential in arriving at a decision on water management. More importantly, the decisions pronounced by the Courts or Tribunals have to be communicated to the locals in their language, so that the vested interests cannot play any political fouls.
Not only about water, but on all issues of development we need to evolve a national perspective rather than thinking on inter-State or inter-District terms. Naturally and nationally, there are certain common formulae that enabled us to sustain as civilisation but their execution and modifications were always local. Instead of harping over faulty faultlines like language, we have to integrate these localised perspectives in tune with the national one.