Bengaluru: The Karnataka government on Wednesday declared 156 out of the 176 talukas of the state drought hit in the wake of a failed northeast monsoon. This has added to the growing call for the speedy implementation of the farm loan waiver to mitigate the deepening agrarian distress.

The declaration comes months after several districts of the state were hit by floods and landslides, wiping out thousands of acres of agricultural and rich coffee growing land, and claimed more than 100 human lives, besides several animals.

The Karnataka state natural disaster monitoring centre on Wednesday said the dry spell continued unabated during the northeast monsoon (1 October to 26 December) and the state recorded 49% deficit in rainfall. North interior Karnataka, which accounts for 90% of rabi sowing, recorded a deficit of 66%, it said.

Mint had on 17 December reported that after declaring around 100 talukas as drought-hit in the kharif season, officials had said that at least 20 more administrative units will be added to the list.

Expectations of good rains after a relatively decent southwest monsoon had encouraged farmers to sow as much as 2.603 million hectares, to achieve 81.09% of the target of 3.18 million hectares, for the rabi season.

The drought is also likely to push the state government to implement the farm loan waiver, most of which remains unimplemented till date. Though several parties have made grand announcements of waiving off farm loans, the delay in implementation has been fuelling growing unrest in the farming community across the country. Agrarian distress has become the biggest election issue in recent times, forcing the announcement of short-term interventions such as farm loan and other waivers, especially ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

The announcement and non-implementation of farm loan waivers has added to political mud-slinging. The farmer, however, has had to endure dipping prices of produce and consecutive droughts because of the dependence on rains.

The 49,000 crore farm loan waiver, which is yet to be implemented, has given the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enough room to attack the Congress, which has been trying to lead the farmers agitation against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led centre.

At least 70% of Karnataka remains rain-fed despite the growing expenditures on irrigation.

The H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in the state had promised to bring in long-term sustainable solutions to mitigate the deepening agrarian distress, but have so far only relied on monetary interventions that has reaped rich electoral dividends.

State government data shows that 1 crore per taluka has been sanctioned to the rural development and panchayati raj ministry to take up drinking water-related work.

The government has also increased the number of man-days in drought-affected talukas from 100 to 150 to generate employment and provide an alternative source of income for the agricultural community. The government said that it aims to increase the total man-days from 10 million per month currently to 100 million by the end of March.

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