Normal life was crippled Saturday in the state capital and in several parts of Karnataka during a day-long shutdown over releasing Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu. External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna warned of a "disaster" if water release is not stopped immediately.
The 12-hour shutdown from 6 a.m., called by Kannada organisations and supported by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), evoked near total response in Bangalore and Cauvery basin districts of Mandya, (80 km from here), Mysore (130 km) and Chamarajanagar(about 200 km).
Government buses, auto-rickshwas and taxis were off the road. Schools, colleges, markets, cinema houses and eating places were shut and even cable TV operators blocked all entertainment channels. Only news channels were on air till 6 p.m.
The response to the shutdown in several parts of north and coastal Karnataka was lukewarm.
Except for an isolated incident of pelting of stones at government buses early Saturday, the shutdown was peaceful, a police spokesperson told reporters in Bangalore.
Buses and auto-rickshwas started plying after 6 p.m. and shops reopened.
Krishna, who belongs to Mandya district, the centre of Cauvery agitation whenever monsoon fails and the state has to release water to Tamil Nadu, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Krishna, who is in the US, wrote that "the entire state is waiting with bated breath to get immediate relief as otherwise it will spell disaster for the population in the Cauvery basin".
He urged the prime minister "to explore possibilities of stopping further release of water from dams in Karnataka".
"I sincerely feel that the situation needs your immediate attention, if it is to be prevented from worsening, as there is already a strong feeling among people of Karnataka that they may have to face severe shortage of water in the months to come," Krishna wrote. The letter was released to the media here.
Krishna told the prime minister that the monsoon season was over in Karnataka (June to Sep) while the north-east monsoon would commence in Tamil Nadu (later this month).
Saturday's shutdown was against Karnataka releasing 9,000 cusecs water daily to Tamil Nadu from last Saturday.
Karnataka started releasing the water on the directive of the Supreme Court, which rapped it for not obeying the Sep 19 order of the prime minister, who is also the chairman of the Cauvery River Authority, to release the water from Sep 20 to Oct 15.
Karnataka has appealed to Mamohan Singh to withdraw his order. The state's petition to the Supreme Court for relief will be heard by the apex court Monday.
The shutdown did not affect train and flight services but passengers were stranded at the railway station here, as auto-rickshaws and taxis remained off the roads.
Companies offering 24x7 services like call centres and business process outsourcing had to make arrangements to escort their employees to work and home.