Civil Society Reports Claim Widespread Misgovernance by BJP Govt in Karnataka
Representational Image. (File Image)
Bengaluru: Amid hectic poll campaign, Bahutva Karnataka, a coalition of progressive organisations, has brought out reports claiming that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka has failed to deliver good governance to the state. The reports cover various parameters, such as nutrition, health, education, fundamental laws, federalism and environment.
As per the reports, only 13% of children aged 6-23 months received an adequate diet. Meanwhile, 33% of children under five were stunted, and 33% were underweight.
While the mid-day meal scheme mandates that meals should be cooked inside school kitchens, there is an exception for schools in urban areas which lack space for a kitchen. In such cases, contracts are given to third parties for food supply, says the report, stating that the exception has become the norm and has impacted the food's quality and freshness.
The report on nutrition also notes that the state’s social welfare and nutrition budget had dropped from Rs 16,403 crore in 2019-20 to Rs 13,651 crore in 2021-22.
It also alleges that milk supply was stopped in 11 districts, including Bidar, Vijayanagar and Gadag, where a malnutrition problem already exists.
As per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2022, only 7.7% of class three students in Karnataka government schools can read up to class two level texts. This is down from 19.4% in 2018. Only 29.2% of class five government school students could read class two level texts. This is down from 47.6% in 2018. This reveals the learning loss caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Addressing the learning gap is of utmost urgency.
The ASER report also finds inadequate infrastructure. Only 23% of Karnataka’s government schools have basic infrastructure facilities as mandated by the Right to Education Act.
IT also noted that the hijab ban prevented Muslim girls from accessing higher education and caused “extreme emotional and psychological distress” within the community. Of late, various sections of society have opposed the attempt to revise school textbooks by excluding progressive writers.
Moreover, the scholarships for SC/ST/OBC students between class 1 to class 8 have been discontinued, the reports noted.
Finally, the reports say that the promotion of vegetarian food in the mid-day meal scheme, despite criticism from nutritionists, goes against the interests of children from underprivileged backgrounds.
Essential Laws Adversely Impacting People
The reports also list various laws that would prove detrimental to the interests of the people of the state.
The Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 2020, allows non-farmers, including corporates, to buy farmland. The law also lifts existing land ceilings, allowing the wealthy to hoard land.
The Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act 2021 makes it illegal to buy, transport, sell or slaughter cattle.
The report suggests that the change will cause an adverse effect on the earnings of Muslims and dalits that depend on cattle for livelihood. It will further increase the expenditure burden on dairy farmers.
Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) Act 2020 allows traders to buy farm produce outside of Agricultural Produce Marketing Corporations.
Karnataka Religious Structures (Protection) Act, 2021, protects unauthorised and illegal religious structures from being demolished.
Karnataka Protection of Right to freedom act, 2022, also known as the anti-conversion law. The report suggests that it denies people the right to choose their own faith and targets missionaries for prosecution.
Factories (Karnataka Amendment) Act, 2023, increases the workday to 12 hours. As per the reports, the changes seek to exploit workers by squeezing more work for the same pay.
The report on federalism attempts to illustrate how India's federal structure has been undermined by the BJP government in Karnataka. For example, it cites that the state receives Rs 40 (from the Central government) for every Rs 100 it contributes. This is down from Rs 53 earlier.
Also, it also noted that local languages have not been promoted in the state. Several exams, including those conducted by the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection, are unavailable in local languages.
The report also noted that the state government had not opposed the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), while neighbouring Tamil Nadu had floated a Bill to undo the need for the NEET exam in the state. In 2021, a panel set up by the Tamil Nadu government found that the exam was skewed in favour of urban students, especially those from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
Finally, the report noted that the BJP government failed to resolve the Mahadayi water-sharing dispute, despite the shortage of clean drinking water in North Karnataka. The dispute is between Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra; the BJP is ruling in all three states.
On health, the report highlights various shortcomings in rural health programmes. It found that the number of Primary Health Centre (PHC) doctors had allegedly dropped by 11.7% between 2005 and 2021. However, PHCs and Community Health Centres (CHCs) have increased.
On the positive side, the report notes a 17.4% increase in the health budget, from Rs 11,908 crore to Rs 13,982 crore, as of March 2022.
The report also alleged lack of transparency in reimbursements paid to private hospitals during the pandemic. The Association of Healthcare Providers (AHPI) have been accused of demanding an increase in reimbursements, while the calculation methodology has not been opened up for public scrutiny.
Noting that the fight against Covid-19 was “communalised” by BJP leader Tejaswi Surya and two other BJP MLAs, it noted how they had barged into the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Covid war room and accused 17 Muslim workers of participation in a bed allocation scam. Surya was also responsible for them losing their jobs, it alleged.
Several frontline workers, such as ASHAs, mortuary workers, ambulance drivers, pourakarmikas and cleaning staff risked their lives to perform their duty during the pandemic. However, most have been retained as contractual employees and paid a negligible wage. The report concludes that this is “exploitation of essential workers.”
On environment, the report pointed out that the government had not taken action against the illegal encroachment of lakes. Meanwhile, existing lakes are drying out or foaming with pollution. During the monsoon, several housing colonies in Bengaluru were flooded due to illegal constructions on lake beds and stormwater drains, it added.
The report also blamed the Forest Department for its inability to stop forest fires. It is alleged that 2,600 forest fires have been reported since February 2023. Meanwhile, Jenu Kurubas and forest tribes were being harassed and forced out of their forest homes, it was alleged.
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