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Babhli Water Conflict: Less Water, More Politics

Water sharing disputes between states are growing, the latest in the news being the conflict between Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh over the Babhli barrage. It puts the spotlight on underlying issues like the lack of an efficient mediating mechanism for conflict resolution both within government and the civil society at all levels. The problem is that of evolving shared modalities of dealing with and sharing water surpluses and shortfalls. This is an aspect that the water disputes tribunals provide no guidelines on because they see water only in terms of legal property to be apportioned. There is also no mechanism to ensure equitable water allocation within a state. In fact, areas within Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are caught in bitter conflicts, much sharper and much larger in scope than Babhli.

Babhli is in the news again. This time it was triggered off by Chandrababu Naidu, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader fro Andhra Pradesh (AP) attempting to “visit” the site of the Babhli barrage in Nanded district, Maharashtra with an entourage of more than 50 MLAs and MPs from his party. They were accompanied by their security personnel giving rise to a chain of events – the M aharashtra government arrested them, Naidu refused bail and continued with his demand that he be allowed to visit Babhli. There were other events that followed: a hartal in AP, the formation of the Babhli Bandhara Action Committee in Nanded and its demand for the immediate ouster of Naidu from Maharashtra and an all-party demonstration at Dharmabad (Nanded district), stoppage of all business in the Maharashtra assembly for a day as a mark of protest, and so on.

Then as an anti-climax, the government of Maharashtra dropped all charges against Naidu and packed him off to Hyderabad in a chartered aircraft, allegedly under the dictate of the Congress leadership in Delhi as they did not want to make a “hero” out of him. And with this the political drama that u nfolded on the boundary of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh seems to have ended, at least for the time being.

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