According to a report in Livemint, the 2019 floods in Karnataka are touted to have caused losses to the tune of ₹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. Chief Minister Yeddyurappa is reported to have said that the state expects “good news” in terms of getting flood relief from the central government. The question is when will this good news be declared?
“The Centre has approved the release of over Rs 4,432 crore to Odisha, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh for the damage caused by natural calamities in these states during the last financial year,” reported India Today. According to this report, “In a statement, the home ministry said a high-level committee, headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, has approved additional central assistance of Rs 3,338.22 crore to Odisha for the damage caused by the cyclone Fani, Rs 1,029.39 crore to Karnataka for drought and Rs 64.49 crore to Himachal Pradesh for avalanches and hailstorm during 2018-19.”
Also read: Centre Reduces Funds for NRDWP in Drought-hit Karnataka, Has No Money for MGNREGS
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, as noted above, the government has allocated a meagre amount of Rs 1,209.39 crore for the drought, even when the state has witnessed the worst losses due to the floods.
This raises some important questions. Why this delay in releasing funds for the severe drought situation? Why is there no talk about the flood relief fund? It is only the government that can answer these questions. The Rural and Panchayat Raj Minister KS Eshwarappa, when his car near Yadur village was stopped by enraged locals demanding compensation, reportedly said, “Go away. We have already given you Rs 10,000 as compensation, which is more than enough." The minister’s remarks had caused an outcry in the state. However, one thing that becomes clear from this is the BJP’s attitude towards the management of natural calamities, and the trend of delays in releasing of funds for compensation.
Also read: #DroughtDistress: Karnataka Runs Dry for Fourth Consecutive Year
It is not only Karnataka that is being neglected. Kerala is in the same boat, as being a state with a non-BJP government, it seems the state is being subjected to ruthless measures of the central government. The Kerala government had requested for a supply of free rice for the victims of floods and heavy rainfall. According to a report in The Wire, this request was rejected by the central government and instead “the Centre is willing to supply rice at the minimum support price of Rs 26 per kg.” The government also has rejected the request to provide rice at Rs 3 per kg under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). The report noted, “The government of Kerala had declared that free ration will be provided to victims in flood-hit areas and that 15 kg of free rice would be given to families in affected areas. However, the supply of free ration has reportedly not begun as about 4.68 lakh families are still awaiting food supplies.”
Also read: Rice-Wheat Stocks at Record High, Govt Clueless
This is not the first time that Kerala is facing this negligence from the centre. As The Wire report notes, in 2018 as well during the Kerala floods, the Central government had refused to supply rice to the state free of cost and had asked the Kerala government to cough up money for the ration at the MSP rates of Rs 25 per kg. The communique from the Central government in 2018 stated that upon failure to make the payment for the ration, the Union government would be obliged to deduct the money from the Centre’s Rs 500 crore flood relief fund. However, the then left government led by Pinarayi Vijayan wrote a letter condemning this move and then “the Centre agreed to the demand by the state government and decided to waive the payment for the ration.”
The Centre’s actions make it unclear as to how it is deciding the amount of relief funds that it releases for these states. According to the Department of Food and Public Distribution’s monthly bulletin, cereal stocks of wheat, rice and coarse grains maintained in the so-called central pool hit an all-time high of 742 lakh tonnes in July this year and in August were only slightly lower at 713 lakh tonnes. What comes across that it is not that the government is short of rice but surely is short of will.