Sell the Kaveri

I have decided to solve the Kaveri dispute. Seriously! Every one else has tried to and failed. They have tried

  • Negotiations: Didn’t work. This is a zero-sum game. Both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu want the water and if it doesn’t rain enough, there just isn’t enough water for everyone. So a negotiated solution will simply mean that both chief ministers play politics every year and there is a lot of bitterness all around.
  • the Judicial solution: Won’t work. There really isn’t any law or any question of fairness involved. Outside those domains, any solution a court conjures up is completely arbitrary. If it tries to impose that solution, the inevitable result will be that the authority of the court gets eroded.
  • the Paternalistic solution: Won’t work. There is a very good reason the Centre is not getting involved in the whole problem. Any solution it comes up with will piss off at least one, and possibly both the states. That means the BJP loses votes.

    So we have a real problem. When it rains a lot in that year, everyone gets water, but when it doesn’t, many cities don’t get water to drink, and some farms have to lie fallow that year. As long as this is a political question, there is no real way of figuring out who has to sacrifice. (And “why can’t we all do with a little less?” may not be an acceptable solution. As long as it is drinking-bathing water, a 20% cut may mean that we don’t bathe on weekends. But a 20% cut across the board for farms may mean 100% destruction of crops because of insufficient water. I don’t really know. ) So I think we should go in for:

  • the Capitalist solution: Form a Kaveri River Authority. Auction the water to groups of farmers (district associations? perhaps. whatever is the smallest unit at which the tap can be turned on or off. ) Whatever money you raise from the auction, distribute it to the others who do not get the water.

So if it rains less in one year, the price of water goes up, and more farmers will decide to keep their land fallow, collect the money and do something else. If it rains much, basically, the price goes down and it makes more sense to till the land.
Voila! You have a working solution. Of course, there are some rough edges to be worked out. For example, how do we identify the farmers who are entitled to cash? When will the auction take place? After the rainy season starts or before? But at least this solution will ensure that the yearly riots don’t take place.

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