The River Mhadei issue returned to the news after a few months of lull. It was a protest on Goa Revolution Day at Margao, where it was demanded that the nod for the DPR for the diversion of waters of the river be revoked, that brought the issue back to the front pages of newspapers and discussions.
At the meeting, it was also resolved to continue the fight to ensure that the river waters are protected.
Ironically, a day earlier, the chief ministers of Goa and Maharashtra had announced that they would be jointly fighting the River Mhadei issue and would take on Karnataka.
This statement was politically loaded, as the River Mhadei issue has been ongoing for years and this is the first time that the two states – Goa and Maharashtra – are teaming up to put up a united front against Karnataka.
The only reason that this has happened is that in the recent elections, Karnataka went to the Congress, while Maharashtra and Goa are on the other side of the political divide, with the BJP in power in both, albeit in a coalition in Maharashtra.
As long as there was a BJP government in Karnataka, there had not even been a whisper of a united front to fight that State on the issue.
Within a month of a change in power, you have the two States coming together. If this isn’t politically motivated, then what is? Within days of a change in government in Karnataka, the Goa BJP made its first assertion on the Mhadei issue.
All this is good for Goa, but is Mhadei only a political issue for our politicians? The River Mhadei issue has been politically motivated from the beginning and recent events indicate this without a doubt.
After the December 2022 nod to Karnataka’s DPR for the Kalasa-Bhandura project by the Central Water Commission, there was a massive people’s meeting on January 16 at Sanquelim, where the opposition was present, but the ruling party was conspicuous by its absence.
The Goa government had been given 15 days to act on the matter. Of course, there was no response to this.
The movement too had not forced the government’s hand after that. The debate continued and small awareness meetings were held. A human chain was formed to highlight the issue, but there was little that changed on the ground.
After the first meeting on Opinion Poll Day in January, the next major meeting that drew just a fraction of the crowd that had been present at the first meeting was held on Revolution Day.
The movement needs to be sustained with consistent pressure on the government to act on the issue that affects all of Goa and not just a part of it. Yet, this is turning difficult as the response from the people to the issue is still quite tepid.
There is agreement across sections that the River Mhadei is Goa’s lifeline. Yet, when the call goes out for a meeting or for creating awareness, there is only a sprinkling of people that turn up for the protest event.
Now, we have the governments of Goa and Maharashtra joining hands to fight their neighbour Karnataka. Maharashtra’s support may boost Goa, but in a political fight, the outcome will depend entirely on how long the political alignments remain the same.
One does not know how long this will take, and a change in any one of the three States during this period could change the political equation.
Shouldn’t the Goa government have instead joined hands first with the people of Goa to take forward the cause of the River Mhadei? Wouldn’t it have been better to fight it entirely from a Goa perspective, rather than depend on a neighbour to take on another neighbour?
Why is it that the people appear to be on one side and the government on the other on an issue that affects the entire State? There is no political divide here. It is the future of Goa that is at stake.
Unless the people get involved in a big way, this will remain a political issue with the government forever paying lip service to the demands of the people, while politics demands how they act.
It is not too much to ask that the government act to stop another State from diverting water to another river basin. Why is the government not acting on this on an urgent basis? The people of Goa have a right to the waters of the River Mhadei and the government should listen to them.