The Mahadayi River Dispute Explained Through Chocolate


The Mahadayi River Dispute Explained Through Chocolate

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

While the rest of the country and its prime-time news channels have been busy arguing over a movie about a person that may or may not have existed 600 years ago, there is a massive protest unfolding over a real issue in the real state of Karnataka. It has gotten as little attention as other minor events do, like the Union Budget or yearly floods in Assam. Sorry Karnataka, maybe now you’ll know what it feels like to be the North East of India.

There’s a state-wide bandh in Karnataka today protesting the Centre’s “apathy” toward the ongoing Mahadayi River dispute with Goa. The dispute began in the ’80s, and thanks to India’s swift judicial process, we’re still at it after 30 odd years. If this is the first time you’ve heard about it, you’re not alone.

Remember when you were kids and a new box of Ferrero Rocher showed up at home during Diwali? You and your younger sister would have a piece each and keep the rest of the box in the fridge. Every time someone wanted to eat another one, they would tell the other one. Both of you were updated routinely, so that equality was maintained and both of you were happy.

Those were good days. If certain pieces went missing and the math suddenly didn’t add up, you could be called out. This was also a time when you were young and stupid, and “Sharing is Caring” was the moral of that story from English class.

The dispute began in the ’80s, and thanks to India’s swift judicial process, we’re still at it after 30 odd years.

Turns out, there was this one time when five of your friends showed up home and you offered them chocolates. Five pieces are now missing from the box and you have been accused by your sister of misappropriation. This is a penny-drop moment. The allegations aside, you realise that you could divert certain pieces for your own consumption. It’s convenient. You are mostly at home alone and have first access to the chocolates, in the same way that people who pay extra money for “premier darshan” get the privilege of access to the shrine at Kedarnath.

When more chocolates go missing, the younger one decides to move court. She goes to mom to find a resolution to the problem. She claims that it is unfair that you, the elder one, have access to the chocolates beforehand and could sneak out pieces at will, ensuring that she never gets her share, and it affect her childhood in a drastic way. Chocolate is oxygen, when you are six years old.

If only life were that simple.

Of course, the siblings Karnataka and Goa are arguing over the Mahadayi river that originates in Karnataka and flows into the sunshine state. Karnataka wants to divert the water to meet the state’s requirements whereas Goa has argued that it is a water-deficient state, and the diversion would cause an ecological disaster and also affect the livelihood of several Goans.

Moms can solve sibling disputes in minutes, but unfortunately it takes a lot more to settle the bickering between two states. Because in the world we live in, everything is political, including the oxygen we breathe, the food we eat, and the movies we watch. And the water we drink.