Lok Sabha polls were held in the southern part of Karnataka on April 18, and now it is time to turn towards the fourteen northern constituencies. These constituencies will be going for polls on April 23, 2019. The Prime Minister Chowkidar Narendra Modi addressed rallies in Chikkodi and Bagalkot on Thursday. While addressing a rally in Bagalkot, the PM asked, "Now tell me, where is the Congress and the JD(S) vote bank? Is it in Bagalkot or Balakot? This Congress-JD(S) has to decide”. At Chikkodi, he was reported saying, "Your vote will decide whether those chanting Bharat Mata ki jai will be respected or tukde tukde will come amidst you and chant slogans about Bharat ke barbadi.”
It is no secret that Modi and Shah and the contestants from their party have been using nationalism, Hinduism, and the sentiments and emotions that come with them to influence the common man. However, it is surprising that Modi did not utter a word about the Mahadayi river dispute, which his party’s representatives in the state have been using in an attempt to topple the Congress-JD(S) coalition government.
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Northern Parts of Karnataka are infested with severe drought problems, farmer suicides, high levels of unemployment and high levels of illiteracy. What about the question of “development”? What about the question of Minimum Support Price (MSP)? Or don’t these questions matter, as the PM openly had admitted that the martyrdom of soldiers is to be a political issue and farmer suicide can take a backstep. Most parts of North Karnataka, especially Bagalkot and Chikkodi, the regions where our Chowkidar wants to nourish nationalism, have worse problems to deal with.
The Actual Problem of North Karnataka: Drought
According to the data compiled by the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre, till December 9, 86 of the 176 talukas received deficient rainfall during the Southwest monsoon, or kharif season, while 162 talukas received deficient rain in the Northeast cycle, or rabi season, reported Livemint. Of the 30 districts across the state, 24 are drought-hit, and it is estimated that the drought has resulted in a loss of Rs 16, 662 crores.
North Karnataka is a drought affected region. According to a report of Down to Earth, north interior Karnataka has “branded itself as a hotbed for dryland agriculture despite an unforgiving summer sun and a persistent lack of irrigation. But the conditions in the past year have taken even these drought-hardened agriculturists to the edge”. As early as in the beginning of the August of 2018, R V Deshpande, the Revenue Minister of the state of Karnataka, had acknowledged the insufficient rainfall in the 13 districts in the northern region of the state, and the consequential drought. The DTE report noted, the southwest monsoon failed with rainfall almost 30 per cent below the average 506 mm. The northeast monsoon was also underwhelming. The deficit was more than 60 per cent in most of the 12 districts in the region while one recorded a 50 per cent deficit. The farmers in the region have incurred huge losses in last two years.
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Overall, Karnataka recorded heavy rainfall this monsoon, and the western parts of the state were flooded. However, the northern districts of the state were untouched by the monsoon this year as well, making this the 14th consecutive year of drought in the region. The revenue minister had also noted that due to the changes in the benchmark defining drought situation by the central government, it is not possible to declare the region as drought-hit. Unable to declare these regions drought-hit, their hands tied because of the central government’s new definition of drought, the state government is facing an agrarian crisis that was avoidable.
With the huge losses incurred and unbearable drought conditions the farmers in the region were forced to exclusively depend on the employment under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), as Newsclick has reported in several contexts, the MGNREGS under the BJP led government is a nightmare.
Also Read: Centre Reduces Funds for NRDWP in Drought-hit Karnataka, Has No Money for MGNREGS
The state government has time and again requested the central government to ensure the payments for the jobs under MGNREGS. Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Dinesh Gundu Rao, in a letter written to the PM about NRDWP also has said, “Our government requested to ensure timely payments for jobs under MGNREGS but your government's apathy towards the state continued. Mandatory payment of MGNREGS workers to the tune of Rs 1,800 crore is pending in Karnataka. It is a violation of the law and it is a burden that most vulnerable people cannot bear,” reported the News Minute. According to a report in Deccan Herald, the state government has decided to pay Rs 439 crore towards the pending payments over and above its share.
State Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Krishna Byre Gowda told Karnataka Legislative Assembly on February 12, 2019, that the Narendra Modi government released only Rs 117 crore against a bill of Rs 2,049 crore, in addition to unpaid wages from previous years.
Also Read: Drought in Karnataka: A Human-made Disaster
According to reports in Vijayakarnataka and other media reports, both Bagalkot and Chikkodi are drought hit. The data shows that in Bagalkot, stunting among children below age of 5 is as high as 45.7 percent and in Chikkodi the conditions of children is terrible. Stunting among children below age of 5 here is as high as 36.7 percent; wasting is 31.7 percent, and 38.5 percent of the children under the age of five are underweight.
The Prime Minister had nothing to say about this to the people of Bagalkot and Chikkodi. However, the locals need to know, why did his government make the changes to the drought manual and stop the region from being declared drought hit? Why are the payments not being made in MGNREGS? Why are these regions in the state suffering from malnutrition despite of Modi’s tall projects?
Also Read: The Manual for Drought Management, 2016 Won’t Let North Karnataka Be Declared Drought-hit