Modi government must be willing to deal in the cost the Teesta deal could impose for West Bengal farmers. However, it shouldn’t forget the costs of a hostile government and the civil society of Bangladesh.
The world is renowned because of their beautiful appearance, being afraid that their love would be prohibited The River spirits Rangit and Rongnyu made the decision to flee the shadows of Teesta Khangtse glacier and elope towards the plains. Followed by Parilbu the snake, Rongnyu soon made it to their meeting point. Tufto The mountain bird however, proved to be a shaky guide, easily distracted by vibrant flowers and flying insects. Disappointed by the long path, it seemed Rangit threatened to return home, but they remained together, Lepcha legend records that they never separated.
Interspersed for centuries with the sorrows and joys of the people who live on its banks, Teesta River has divided the two nations it flows through.
This week, when Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina Wazed travelled to India She has declared that the achievement of an agreement to share the Teesta waters is the main focus of her diplomatic efforts. In her public statements, Hasina called on India to ” show more generosity” in the ongoing talks. Bangladesh and India were able to reach an agreement on the less contentious Kushiyara region, which stretches between Assam to Sylhet However, the Teesta remains out of reach.
Since he was first elected in 2014 the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly assured Hasina that he’s fully committed to a deal. Modi’s determination has, however, run into a difficult truth: the nation’s interests aren’t great for the majority of Indians.
The rivers are divided
As with everything else related to India and Bangladesh the battle to control the Teesta is inextricably linked to Partition. Since the end of the nineteenth century British colonial leaders first contemplated diverting Teesta as well as the Ganga to Hooghly to remove silt from the strategically important Kolkata port. After independence, the British government moved ahead by launching projects like the Farakka barrage, which was a more complicated project that involved power generation and irrigation infrastructure that was intended to spur growth within West Bengal.
The river system was a tangle of 54 rivers that ran between India towards East Pakistan. And the smaller nation was worried that the Farakka barrage could be the model for a massive choke of the country’s water resources. In the wake of this, Pakistan announced plans to construct its own barrage downstream of Farakka. The tense relationship among India and Pakistan meant that there was no serious effort to reach an agreement that would be a fair share of resources.
However, even after Bangladesh gained its independence, however, arriving at a water-sharing arrangement was a challenge. Legal expert Bikramjit de has pointed out that the interim agreement signed in 1975 only lasted 41 days. A five-year arrangement that was negotiated through the United Nations in 1977 gave Bangladesh an 80/20 portion of dry-season flows but the deal was not sustainable.
Then, in 1979 Bangladesh was able to complete the construction of its own barrage in Dalia that was intended to supply water to more than half a million acres of land. Five years after, Bangladesh opened the 4,500 kilometers of canals that carry water out of Dalia barrage to Dalia barrage into the country’s maize and rice farms. Within a couple of years, however the canals ran dry.
In the other direction, India had completed another barrage at Gajoldoba in Jalpaiguri and supplying water up to 28,000 acres of land for farming. In 1996, economic experts Yoshiro Higano as well as Muhammad Fakrul Islam have noted that the country’s “exclusive control of the Teesta’s water in the dry season at Gajoldoba made the Dalia barrage useless.” In the monsoon however the release from water from the barrage’s overflow created “floods and bank erosions, leading to serious suffering”.
On turbulent seas
Since 1996, a structure to resolve disputes over water rights in the Ganga and Teesta waters has been put in the works: It is the Ganges Water Treaty, that was signed in the year 1996 by Prime Minister Hasina and Hasina and the Prime Vice-Minister HD Deve Gowda, committed India to release water from Farakka to farmers in Bangladesh. As political researcher Fahmida Aktar pointed out that the flow of water is often below the level that Bangladesh has the right to receive in the dry seasons. There was no arbitration mechanism within the treaty furthermore, rendered it useless.
Manmohan Singh’s former government worked out a compromise in the year 2010. In 2010, the draft agreement called for providing Bangladesh as well as India 40 percent of the flow each and also included arbitrating disputes before the International Court of Justice. For several months The then-National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon fought to secure West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s approval for the agreement and gaining her approval.
Then, due to reasons that were never disclosed, Banerjee pulled out. The government of Prime Minister Singh, which relied on the backing by the Trinamool Congress (TMC)–was forced to withdraw from the agreement.
According to certain accounts, Banerjee believed the deal could lead to people in West Bengal losing some 8,000 cubic feet of water during the crucial dry seasons, which would affect agriculture in Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, and Darjeeling. In the end, West Bengal pushed for a 70:30 divide of water during the dryest months, which runs from December through April.
While TMC leaders are no longer able to exercise control in the Union government However, the political hurdles against an Teesta agreement are still. There is a reluctance from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is working to strengthen its political participation within West Bengal, is reluctant to sign a treaty that will hurt those who live in this state. The Modi administration is also unwilling to risk public protests in sensitive areas such as Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Darjeeling as they are essential to the connection between India and North-East India.
The issue on both sides of the border however, is getting more pronounced every year. Hydrologists Kalyan Rudra who conducted an investigation of the issue in the name of West Bengal government on the Teesta issue in the year 2011 He has noticed the fact that sedimentation is restricting capacity for storage in existing barrages as well as dams. The need of water is also growing, which results in more friction among India as well as Bangladesh.
There is a growing concern that Bangladesh prime minister’s calls to actions are getting more urgent. Elections are scheduled for Bangladesh in 2023. Hasina is aware that her close relationship with India can provide an ammunition source to an ever-more violent opposition. Since she was elected, Hasina has extinguished jihadist threats, offered unprecedented counter-terrorism cooperation, and thwarted insurgencies against India. The government’s inability to strike a deal with the Teesta however, is hurting Bangladesh farmers and has weakened her position.
Evidence of the fact that Hasina is forced to concede to India’s enemies aren’t difficult to come across. Islamists who are backed from the government are engaged in an unstoppable culture war, focusing on women wearing western attire on campus and blasphemy claims. Bangladesh has also requested help from China to develop water-management initiatives on the Teesta which is a clear issue of strategic importance for India.
Experts believe there are some ways India can do to lessen the tension, without the signing of a treaty. Gauri Noolkar-Oak suggests that a better handling of the releases from water out of dams Sikkim as an example can increase the amount of water available to be used for as well West Bengal and Bangladesh. The two countries could collaborate to improve the availability of groundwater as well as rationalize the agricultural water demand.
A deal over the Teesta could result in significant consequences for marginal and low-income farmers in West Bengal. These are costs that the Modi government has to work with and deal with. The price of a hostile administration and the civil society of Bangladesh however it is not a huge amount, will be far greater than that burden.