Water shortage protest paralyses India's tech hub Bengaluru

Activists of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike burn an effigy of Siddaramaiah, chief minister of the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Bengaluru, India Sep 09, 2016, 03.04 PM (IST)
A mass strike shut down India's technology capital Bengaluru on Friday, with hundreds of companies forced to remain closed and public transport services cancelled as thousands took to the streets over water shortages.

Schools, shops and some government offices also remained closed and there were few private cars on the usually clogged roads in the sprawling capital of southern Karnataka state, which has seen days of street protests.

The strike was called to protest against a Supreme Court order that Karnataka release thousands of gallons of water from its reservoirs into rivers that supply the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, which has been suffering from a severe shortage.

"The day-long, state-wide shutdown is in protest against the Supreme Court order and to express resentment over the state government releasing the water when we don't have it for drinking and irrigation," said Vatal Nagaraj, president of a local federation of civil society groups.

Around 5,000 protesters took to the streets of Bengaluru, some burning tyres and effigies of Tamil Nadu's chief minister Jayalalitha Jayaram.

Technology outsourcing giants Infosys and Wipro said they had told staff to take the day off and make up the time at the weekend.

The shutdown also left hundreds of rail and air passengers stranded at the city's railway station and airport, with no buses or taxis to take them.

India suffers severe water shortages that cause frequent tensions between states.

Earlier this year the government was forced to deploy troops to secure a canal supplying water to New Delhi after it was sabotaged by protesters in neighbouring Haryana state, causing days of shortages in the capital.

"We will give our blood but not Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu," said Bengaluru protester Pravin Shetty, referring to the river that flows through both states.

"How can the state government release our water to grow crops in the neighbouring state when we don't have enough of it for drinking purposes this year."