Bengaluru: Karnataka chief minister K. Siddaramaiah is criss-crossing drought-hit districts in his state, but people in the parched regions are not impressed.
According to Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (farmers’ association), the chief minister has not announced any relief measure during these visits. “All he and others (opposition parties) do is complain about each other," he said.
Karnataka is going through its second straight drought year. The government has declared 139 of the 177 talukas drought-affected. Siddaramaiah on Thursday toured Koppal and Raichur districts.
Siddaramaiah, who also holds the finance portfolio, will present the state budget in March. He has met farmer groups, which have demanded drought relief, water, fodder and loan waivers, but the chief minister has said he will waive loans only if the centre foots half the bill. Farmer groups say that Siddaramaiah should initiate the process and then demand the same from the centre.
“Farmers are left to fend for themselves. We have not received any compensation for the kharif season also. We have made it clear to the chief minister that if this continues, he will be sent home next elections," said Kurubur Shanthakumar, farmer activist and president of the state sugar cane growers’ association.
Farmer activists say their community is the largest vote bank but there is complete apathy towards them.
According to the chief minister, state cooperative societies have only disbursed loans of around Rs10,000 crore (availed of by about 20-22% of farmers), while nationalized and other commercial banks have disbursed Rs35,000 crore, (78-80% of farmers).
In August, the government restricted cultivating water-guzzling crops like sugarcane and paddy, but is yet to compensate farmers for the same.
The total area of cultivation in Karnataka came down from 96,200 hectares (for major crops including paddy, sugarcane, ragi, maize and pulses) to 61,600 hectares in the kharif season, Mint reported on 19 September.
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Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and professor at the Karnataka university, Dharwad, says it is a “rare phenomenon" when the government discourages its farmers from agricultural activities. He argues that Siddaramaiah is not a person who concedes to waiver of loans but adds that the state government has not provided compensation, water for farming or drought assistance to help the farmers either.
Siddaramaiah and minister for agriculture could not be reached for comment