Mangaluru, Oct 30, 2015: Recently hundreds of activists protested at Pumpwell and staged a Rasta Roko agitation to pressurise the government to drop the controversial Yettinahole Integrated Drinking Water Project. Among them were a handful of elected representatives.
More than describing as handful, one could very well count them-there were just three of them namely Dakshina Kannada MP Nalin Kumar Kateel, Capt. Ganesh Karnik, MLC and JR Lobo, MLA of Mangaluru North. Apart from them there were a host of other leaders including former Suratkal MLA Vijay Kumar Shetty and seers of Odiyoor, Vajradehi and Kemar Mutts. As expected, all of them have placed forth a vehement demand to abandon the project.
The protestors including the elected representatives were seen squatting on the road at Pumpwell as part of the protest. But the discerning Mangalurean prefers to ask them a question – "Why are you protesting at Pumpwell rather than the Well of the House where you represent the people of your constituency?" Well a pertinent question indeed and these elected representatives who were proudly protesting at Pumpwell need to answer.
The discerning Mangalurean is right when he says a protest in the Well of the House was far more effective rather than the protest at Pumpwell. A protest in the Well of the House means the protest would be held right in front of the Chief Minister, his cabinet colleagues and all other elected MLAs from across the state.
MP Nalin Kumar Kateel who has already declared that he would fight until the project is dropped and would also lead the agitation could very well raise the issue in the Parliament and draw the attention of the Prime Minister towards the issue. Why hasn’t he protested there but here in Mangaluru, squatting on the NH and achieving nothing ? Why haven’t the other two elected representatives followed suit?
There is every suspicion of a hidden agenda behind their protest in Mangaluru right in front of the eyes of the people who voted for them. Probably, for them, protesting in front of the electorate would be far more beneficial as they even get a good coverage in the local media too. But can personal interests be placed above public interests in such grave matters?
The BJP even embarked upon a Padayatra from Mangaluru to Sakleshpur recently under the leadership of the MP but was prevented from entering the Hassan borders citing law and order problem. The protest had thus ended abruptly and the Padayatra team had to return to Mangaluru, showering curses on the government.
But, Padayatras have these days become more of a fashion and publicity stunt rather than achieving anything significant. On the other hand, the ministers from the District are as helpless as ever and have practically chosen to remain mute spectators to the developments.
When one speaks about protests, dharnas and padayatras one is forced to refer to the widespread and massive protests that had erupted across the district spontaneously a couple of years ago demanding justice in the Sowjanya rape and murder case.
Students were part of the protest, as also various other social and voluntary organisations. The pressure mounted on the government though had yielded result when a CBI probe was ordered, more than a year later, there is practically no progress in the investigation. Except for the police arresting a mentally unstable person named Santosh Rao whom many believe is innocent, the investigation seems to have virtually come to a standstill, with the so called accused still languishing behind bars even as Sowjanya’s family is waiting for justice.
Will the Yettinahole protests meet the same fate as the protests demanding justice to Sowjanya? Will the power of the mighty and influential reign supreme and suppress the protests?
As of now though some attempts have been made by a few to sensitize even people of Kolar and other so called beneficiary districts of Yettinahole project, that the project would be of little help to them. But, is that suffice?
In the past one month period, the district had seen a spate of protests against Yettinahole. There was a bundh in Belthangady taluk, highway blockade in Uppinangady and another highway blockade and massive protest at Pumpwell in Mangaluru. But can these protests do the magic? Can they convince the government to drop the Yettinahole project? The need of the hour is far more conviction not only from social activists as well as citizens but also from all the elected representatives of the district. Cutting across party lines they need to be united in fighting against the project. But is that feasible?