Farakka is a hangover project not seriously taken up earlier until by independent India
since 1949 , that is immediately after Indian partition
and Pakistan founded in two parts, the West in northern British India and East in East Bengal
. Though the founding of the new innovative state of Pakistan
was founded through popular votes of the people and in consensus agreement of the three main parties then involved active in Indian politics
– the British, the Congress and the Muslim League- the powerful actors the British colonialist and the caste ridden elitist Brahmanist Congress had set their targets very much at the beginning to dismember Pakistan and eat that up at some opportune moment. The first target being East Bengal for many vulnerable reasons against East Bengal
, such as, its geographical location almost encircled by big India and economic over dependence on West Bengal and bigger Indian merchants and businessmen. The set hidden target being so, India’s Farakka Barrage Project just 11 miles up from the agreed international land border across the mighty river Ganges
/ Padma must have had the additional hidden agenda for hegemony and throttle East Bengal in the down stream flowing through East Bengal ( East Bengal/East Pakistan) to the Bay of Bengal. Apparently the project for control and diversion into the river Bhagirathi to flash out and keep fit for deeper draught vessel into the Haldia river port near Calcutta looked innocent and of big utility to India.
2. Pakistan kept on objecting then off :
Although Pakistan since almost the beginning in mid August 1947 had leadership crisis, India had both experienced and more efficient leadership and continuity of old colonial administration obtained almost intact, Pakistan had kept on objecting to erecting the Barrage across river Ganges in upstream for that was taken to affect adversely the water flow along the Padma in the down stream through East Bengal to the Bay of Bengal. That is why almost no substantial progress of the work was made in nearly two decades. But as soon as East Pakistan
was in political turmoil in late 1960 s the project got a quick accomplishment. Whether there was any close connection between the Jalao Porao or put on arson and burn- of East Pakistan mainly engineered by Sheikh Mujib
’s six point ‘ autonomy’ formula launched in mid 1966 need be looked into depth. Soon in midst of the anarchy and chaos, civil war in 1971 , secession and independence of East Pakistan naturally left Bangladesh
on its own in all matters and so the Farakka matter, as well.
3. Advantage taken by India and Delhi :
Ganges/Padma river route and farakka barrage (which also disturbed Hilsha Fish Movement) in map. Click to enlarge.
The friendly governments of Delhi and Calcutta took the best advantage of the period of turmoil of Bangladesh and completed the Farakka Barrage construction left only to just begin its operation. Even so, they could not do so unilaterally because the Ganges/Padma happened to be not only India’s river but also of sovereign Bangladesh’s that made it a serious matter for water sharing subject to rules, regulations and norms of international river waters under several statutes. However, India took another advantage of close friendship with Dhaka to get the barrage operation for diverting and withdrawal of water at the upstream. They had little difficulty in making Dhaka agree to their programs that they did in May 1975. Even so, the operation was meant for ‘40 experimental days’ and to get things viewed for adverse effects in the down stream. Unfortunately the top leader’s fall from power in mid August 1975 that kept things ahead not only in uncertainly but also hardening of Delhi’s attitude to Dhaka on all matters.
4. Prelude to 1977 water treaty :
Bangladesh was no match in anything with bigger India. The changes of government in Dhaka through army coup and counter coup one after another, the national army being in the driving position and General Zia to the top, was unpalatable to India that made things very difficult for Dhaka to move ahead. But the people were united and so were the people for the due share of water down the Farakka Barrage. On 16 May 1976 the oldest and the most experienced politician and mass leader Maolana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani
organized and led a road march of hundreds of thousands of people towards the Indian border nearest to the Farakka point. Obviously the procession was stopped at the border by Indian security forces. He addressed the rally there and asked India to give our share of water or face serious other consequences. The threat on behalf of the huge mass of people gathered there produced some result that made the 1977 water sharing agreement for five years possible with minimum guarantee clause of 34 ,500 cusecs of water to be released at the Farakka point for Bangladesh’s needs.
The most experienced politician and mass leader Maolana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani organized and led a road march of hundreds of thousands of people towards the Indian border nearest to the Farakka point. He addressed the rally there and asked India to give our share of water or face serious other consequences.
5. President Zia killed in May 1981 :
President General Zia had a stronger spine that made the 1977 treaty with guarantee clause for minimum flow during lean season for five months (January to May).
Once President General Zia was killed, many alleged the killing by Indian Intelligence R&AW operatives and under Indian PM Indira Gandhi’s direct planning and order, the water sharing for three years set had passed. The renewal of the agreement was not made. Bangladesh suffered for loss of everything of life and economy due to lower quantum of flow. There was nothing except a MOU made in 1982 , India arrogantly refused to make any agreement to enjoy scope to withdraw water unilaterally at will until the 1996 treaty that in fact unfortunately flouted rules and norms of international water sharing bodies like Helsinki Rules or treaty conditions that existed for other river waters elsewhere like the Nile, Danube, Indus Water between India and Pakistan, etc.
6. Hasina made an agreement in December 1996 for 30 years with no guarantee clause :
PM Sheikh Hasina says as also her own men in top administration that the Tipaimukh would be so done and operated that it would do no ‘ harm’ to Bangladesh That was what the assurance she has got from Indian PM Monmohon Singh.
Shaikh Hasina on assuming the position of PM in 1996 for the first time through indecent and immoral league with the Jamaat and the Jatiya Party leader imprisoned Ershad for high degree corruption, made a high sounding agreement for 30 years. The additional suicidal clue was ‘ dependent on availability of water’ at the Farakka point, being other mass withdrawn at points still up in the stream caring nothing much less taking consent of Bangladesh. It sounded high but having no clause for minimum guarantee for the down stream flow during the leanest season (April-May) it remained suicidal for Bangladesh for all encompassing adverse effects due to non availability of water for basic sustenance of lives, economy and environment. For thirteen years India has been even more aggressive not only in matters of Farakka but also in matters of Teesta, its seven tributaries, and now newly started Tipaimukh Barrage in the upstream of Surma and Kusiara that flow down to the Meghna another big river of Bangladesh. This is certain to have ill fate of Farrakka’s adverse effects on one fourth of the country in the south west region just as one third of Bangladesh in the south east of Bangladesh due to the Tipaimukh Multi- purpose Barrage. Hasina says as also her own men in top administration that the Tipaimukh would be so done and operated that it would do no ‘ harm’ to Bangladesh That was what the assurance she has got from Indian PM Monmohon Singh, but unfortunately nothing in written much less in document of treaty. Pity for Hasina for the harsh reality is that they cared little for written documents possibly for their bigness and bigger muscle power, how could Delhi be trusted for verbal sweet words!
Tipaimukh Multipurpose Barrage Project
7. Questions to ponder and to rise :
On the Farakka March’s 34 th anniversary this year on the 16 th May some pertinent questions have been raised by some quarters. The points are- (1) whether Bangladesh must raise the issue at the United Nations for arbitration for the quantum of water; (2) whether Bangladesh must seek for compensation to India for the huge loss incurred during the lat 35 years of the barrage operation at the upstream against lives, economy and environment; (3) whether Bangladesh must make enumeration of losses incurred in terms of money ( I made a calculation of loss in 2008 March that came to a figure of 49 lakhs crores, in May 2010 it might rise further 3 lakhs crores making the total as of now at 52 lakhs crore Taka that comes to US$ 7 , 400 billion at the current exchange rate) and seek the amount for the compensation from India; (4) whether comprehensive plans for joint development of river water sources in the Himalayan region for augmenting water flows through construction of dams in the upper region and for water management sharing with other neighboring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and India be pursued for the total river basin as a unit in a cooperative approach, (5) whether, in case all the above four options unrealized satisfactorily, Bangladesh must opt for military option, the brief and the most likely would be bombing by our Air Force at the Farakka installations proper and so ensure natural flow of water in the downstream to Bangladesh.
Whether, in case all the above four options unrealized satisfactorily, Bangladesh must opt for military option, the brief and the most likely would be bombing by our Air Force at the Farakka installations proper and so ensure natural flow of water in the downstream to Bangladesh.
8. Strength of the spine :
Bangladesh has no strong spine to take up the 5 th option against mighty India. But a sniper action should not be ruled out. The Padua/Roumary battle in 2001 had been a good lesson for India. One would point out though that since the 25-26 February massacre of the 57 commissioned army officers in matter of hours in the capital city Dhaka in the well secured BDR HQ must have taught the army that how much deeply helpless they could be in face of India sponsored massacres meekly eaten up here for weaker spine and personal lust for power hungriness and as such any probable air attack on the Farakka Barrage installations could be countered with mightier attacks. The further issue that caused worry is that they have gained additional moral strength by dismissing at some one’s will many other senior army officers in addition to those faced the judicial murder of five in late January 2010 due only to vengeance and hardly for upholding rule of law that have had additionally chilled the spines of Bangladesh army. Otherwise India would have had chilled her spines, I can confidently guess.
Any probable air attack on the Farakka Barrage installations could be countered with mightier attacks. So, Bangladesh Army should make its spine stronger then now.
9. Pakistan’s instance :
India played havoc with Pakistan in the initial years and soon after the Kashmir war in October 1947 in that India had stopped all canals in the upstream in order for Pakistan to get lost in the lifeline for agriculture through irrigation in the Pakistan part of the Punjab that developed long before the British period, loss of drinking water supply and huge damage to environment. But Pakistan’s spine though relatively weaker then even so India got to the table and made 10 years treaty permitting Pakistan exclusive rights of full three rivers’ waters- Sind, Jehlum and Chenab, and India secured similar rights of another three – Ravi, Beas and Sutlej for her. On expiry of the ten year period the treaty was renewed forever that runs till today. The World Bank though made the mediation Pakistan’s spine was an important factor to force India to sit down across the negotiating table and their leaders Ayub and Nehru in September 1960 did the formal signing. Again Pakistan had the Army General with stronger spine in leadership and Nehru the founding leader of independent India and top boss of the Congress party. We experienced President General Zia had a stronger spine that made the 1977 treaty with guarantee clause for minimum flow during lean season for five months (January to May) at 34 ,500 cusecs.
10. 1996 treaty clauses flouted consistently by India :
The treaty made by Dhaka in 1996 with weaker spine facing Delhi’s stronger one and cunning sweet words obviously fell flat and Bangladesh has not in the last 13 years got the due share agreed then unfairly though agreed for Bangladesh in the agreement. It is very much clear that unless the spine is made stronger there is in store all sufferings, misfortune and misery continuing for 35 years of water aggression now against Bangladesh not only for the Indian Farakka Barrage but also for the Teesta’s Gazaldoba, Tipaimukh Dam etc, that is, in all 53 common rivers unfortunately Bangladesh geographically positioned in the down stream of the Indian location being in the upstream that must bring along in future many other for the country due mainly to spineless rulers running the country. May I say at the end that unless one is deeply aware of the aggressive and hegemonic attitude of the Indian rulers against the smaller countries in the region one must fail to understand the common river waters downstream flows and sharing in its proper perspective.