After two long months of waiting, the central government has announced the release of Rs. 1,200 crore as flood relief fund for Karnataka. The state government, however, had requested for Rs. 3,000 crore. The recent floods in Karnataka are touted to have caused losses to the tune of Rs. 50,000 crore and around 103 taluks in 22 districts have been badly hit with over 6.9 lakh hectares of crop loss. Around 75,317 houses have been damaged due to the rains. But so far, the state has only got help by way of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Air Force and Army assistance during heavy rains, landslides and flooding. The New Indian Express had reported that the state government had decided to shell out Rs 1,500 crore from its own pocket.
This devastating flood has affected the whole state, particularly North Karnataka very badly. However, a natural disaster of this scale went unattended by the central government for two long months. Earlier in August, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, B S Yeddyurappa had met 60 private companies and requested them to fund the flood relief efforts of the government. He had offered them, as Livemint reported, to rename the villages by the names of the companies that would fund that village. This desperation could have been shown to and used to pressurise the central government to release funds. Even when the state government did approach the Centre, the funds were not released immediately.
Also read: Karnataka Government Forced to Shell Out its Own Money as Flood Relief
There seems to be an interesting reason behind the state government’s initial reluctance to pressurise the Centre for immediate disbursal of flood relief fund. The Bharatiya Janata Party is the ruling party at both the Centre and state. Recently, Tejasvi Surya, a young MP from South Bangalore issued a statement saying that the state has enough funds to fend for itself and there was no need to ask the central government for funds. It is a belief among the BJP leaders and supporters that the central government is too busy and shouldn’t be disturbed by matters like job loss, mob lynchings, hate crimes and even natural disasters.
Earlier, Karnataka had declared 156 out of 176 taluks as drought hit. The then Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition-led state government headed by H D Kumaraswamy had submitted a memorandum, seeking Rs 2,064.30 crore as drought relief fund for the rabi season as crop loss was estimated to be Rs 11,384.7 crore. Kumaraswamy had also told the PM that the state was finding the amount allocated from the Centre for the drought during Kharif season insufficient. As NewsClick has reported earlier, the state received less funds under the rural jobs scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the then state government had to spend on its own. Now, the government has allocated a meagre amount of Rs 1,209.39 crore for drought, and Rs 1,200 crore for floods. So, now with the state government being forced to spend money from its own pockets, it is all the same.
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This is not the first time that the central government is not releasing funds. Karnataka had sought for a total of Rs. 2,000 crore as relief fund for the floods in 2018, for which the central government had released just Rs. 546.21 crore. This time according to various media reports, the state government is planning to use unspent funds from various departments, including from under the Schedule Caste/ Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) sub-plan for relief and rehabilitation measures.