An Open Letter to Citizens of Karnataka Proud to be a Kannadiga by Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

India 12 September 2016:
The last two days of outrage expressed against my innocuous tweet on Bangalore bandh, has hurt me and pained me to the core. My tweet has been distorted and misinterpreted and used to hurl abuse and shame me, which is most unfair. I am shocked to see such negative vile being hurled at me from different quarters.

As a proud Kannadiga, I have worked tirelessly over decades in Bangalore not just as a businesswoman creating several thousand jobs but as a proud and responsible citizen, investing my personal time, energy and funds for the welfare of the people of Karnataka. I have utmost love and respect for my fellow citizens, especially farmers and am aware of the hardships faced by them due to acute water shortage and believe Karnataka's needs from Cauvery water must be addressed first.

However, I am of the view that Bandhs are not a solution to this grave issue, this long standing Cauvery water dispute needs to be settled through non emotional, evidence based amicable discussions between the two state governments.

Welfare Initiatives

Through my foundation I have been investing in creating sustainable livelihood solutions for people of Karnataka in nearly 100 GramPanchayats covering nearly 1500 villages for more than a decade. Through our initiatives in healthcare and education we have been touching several hundred thousand lives. 90% of our beneficiaries are farmer families across Mandya, Anekal, Hoskete, Chikaballapura, Dandelli, Coorg, Billagi, Bagalkot, Badami, Mangalguda, Kalkunte, Chikaballapur, Kaladgi, Halyal Vijayapur, Tumkur, Bijapur, Huskur, and Hennagara in Karnataka.

We have also built a township in Bagalkot where over 400 farmer families have been rehabilitated and provided sustainable living through houses equipped with solar lights and toilets and have access to clean drinking water through a water filtration plant. We have also set up a primary health clinic to provide them medical support and are also building a community centre and a primary school.
Since early 2000, through my philanthropy I have been supporting rural communities with comprehensive primary healthcare services through health clinics, management of malnutrition in children, early detection and prevention of oral & cervical cancer and management of diabetes & Hypertension. Under ‘Chinnara Ganitha’ program we have benefited over 7 lakhs farmers’ children across 1550 schools in Karnataka. We have developed and provided special text books to enable activity based learning to develop critical competencies in mathematics for the students of class 1 to class 7.

I am deeply concerned with the state of farmers and have therefore also collaborated with eKisaan Foundation to enable our farmers with technology that can empower them to take right decisions. Several hundred gram panchayats have been equipped with Tablets to benefit several thousand farmers in those regions.  This initiative of Biocon is helping farmers living in remote areas of Karnataka regularly access information needed for raising their crop yield in a cost effective manner.

For the city of Bengaluru, I have been personally engaging with the Government and various administrative departments to address various infrastructure challenges of the city.  As the founder member of B.PAC, I am selflessly investing in various initiatives to address ongoing challenges of the city and to improve the life of an average Bangalorean. However, despite my commitment to the city and state there are groups of people who have been targeting me with their spiteful comments which I find most deplorable and in extreme bad taste.

Cavery River Water Distribution Facts

Cauvery river originating from Talakaveri in Karnataka has a length of 800 kilometer, of which 320 Km is in Karnataka and 416 km in Tamil Nadu with remaining across Kerala border. There are 3 dams constructed by Karnataka (KRS, Kabini and Harangi) which have a total capacity of 104 TMC of water, while Tamil Nadu has a total capacity of 136 TMC of water through its 3 dams (Mettur, Bhavani Sagar and Amaravathi).

Tamil Nadu’s irrigated lands have nearly doubled over the last 3-5 decades from an area of 1,440,000 acres to 2,580,000 acres, with 1,140,000 forest land being converted to farming land.  While Karnataka’s irrigated area has stood at 680,000 acres, with no changes to the irrigated lands.

Current Shortage of water

As per available public domain information Karnataka requires 81 TMC of water to cater to drinking water requirements and water for farming. However the total water currently available in all the 3 dams is only 56 TMC, out of which 22 TMC water is a dead water (below the dam gates). This indicates that Karnataka has a scarcity of 47 TMC of water currently to cater to its regular needs, while Tamil Nadu has been constantly demanding for the additional share of the water to sustain its additional agricultural activity.

With 90% of the monsoon season over and little or no further rainfall expected, Karnataka is facing a serious shortage of water to drink, yet has agreed to comply with the Supreme Court order of releasing additional water to Tamil Nadu, this reflects the large heartedness of Kannadigas.

However, at this moment Tamil Nadu Government‘s additional demand for more water to be released for their summer commercial crop is unfair.

In light of these unjust demands being made on Karnataka, the protest and agitation by the farmers is well placed, however the manner in which this is being done is not appropriate, two wrongs don’t make one right. The bandhs and violent protests not only hamper the common man and the daily wage earner but also impacts the overall productivity. One day of bandh leads to an economic loss of several thousand crores which impacts the health of the state and its people.

I would therefore urge both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Governments to resolve this long standing water dispute through amicable evidence based discussions in the best interest of our farmers.