‘We aren’t begging. This is farmers’ right’, Krishna Byre Gowda tells Amit Shah over drought relief

Gowda said that despite sending a memorandum regarding the drought situation in the state, the relief funds were not yet granted.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Feb 11, 2024 | 4:27 PMUpdated Feb 11, 2024 | 4:27 PM

‘We aren’t begging. This is farmers’ right’, Krishna Byre Gowda tells Amit Shah over drought relief

In the wake of Union Amit Shah’s visit to Karnataka, state Minister for Revenue Krishna Byre Gowda slammed the state unit of the BJP for not ensuring drought relief fund for the state from the Union government.

Krishna Byre Gowda, in a press conference held in Bengaluru on Sunday, 11 February, said that despite sending a memorandum to the Union government four and a half months ago regarding the drought situation in the state, the relief funds were not yet granted.

“We submitted the memorandum on 23 September, today, is 11 February. Even after four and half months, the Union government has not yet taken any decision related to drought,” Gowda said.

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Criticises Union govt over drought relief

“We declared drought in our state on 13 September (2023). Within ten days, we submitted a memorandum to the Union government to take necessary measures to take the drought relief works and provide crop relief to farmers on 23 September. We also submitted two supplementary memorandums,” said the minister.

“The state government demanded ₹18,172 crore as drought relief for 223 talukas in the memorandum submitted to the Union government. Of the total drought relief sought, ₹4,673 crore is related to the crop relief to the farmers.

“We constituted the finance commission as per the Constitution in the country. As per the finance commission recommendations, NDRF grants have been fixed. We are demanding ₹18,172 crore drought relief as per the NDRF norms. We have written several letters to the union ministry concerned to fasten the drought process. The central team also submitted the report in October 2023,” the minister added.

He said that he and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had met the Prime Minister on 19 December, 2023, and requested to take the decision related to the drought relief work at the earliest.

“Even during PM Modi’s recent visit to Bengaluru, the chief minister met him and requested to pace up the drought relief work,” said Gowda.

He also highlighted that the Union home minister had not yet chaired a meeting regarding the situation even after assuring them in December last year that it would be conducted soon.

“We also met the Union Minister for Home Affairs on 20 December, 2023. He had said that he would chair (high-level committee) meeting on 23 December, but did not hold it. Then, they claimed that the meeting would be held on 16 January, but did not chair it again. Even after all these developments, the Union government is yet to chair the meeting,” he said.

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Elaborates drought in Karnataka

The minister added that the state was facing severe drought and the state government was taking necessary steps to address it.

“The state is facing severe drought. The drought has been declared in 223 talukas. The state government has released ₹870 crore drought relief to the district deputy commissioners and tahsildars accounts.

“We have also given directives to utilise these funds to address the emergency drinking water issues in the affected areas. The fodder arrangement has also been made. We have given independence to the district and taluka-level officers,” he said.

He said the 223 task forces under the chairmanship of local MLAs in November 2023 have been entrusted with the responsibility to take necessary measures to tackle the drought.

The minister added that necessary arrangements were made to ensure drinking water for the people also detailing that the state government was ensuring the supply of fodder kits to farmers free of cost.

Alleging a scandal in providing crop relief funds during the previous BJP government in the state, the minister said that they reopened the investigation regarding the same.

“We have reopened and are investigating it. We are making all the efforts to shut the loopholes in the system while providing drought relief works. There were a lot of irregularities in crop relief works in Kalaburagi, Belagavi, Chitradurga, Hassan and across the state. We have also received a lot of complaints in this regard,” he said.

“We have made drought relief a right of the farmers. We have completely stopped the application system for farmers to take up drought relief works. It is the farmers’ right. We collect the crop and identity details of farmers and provide drought relief works. This has been implemented to ensure transparency in the process,” he added.

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Appeals to Union HM to release funds

He also appealed to the Union home minister to consider the drought situation in the state seriously and announce the drought relief fund before he left Karnataka after his visit.

“We are neither asking for credit nor begging. NDRF is the Constitutional provision. Karnataka is the second-highest tax-paying state. It is the responsibility of the Union government to come to the aid of the state during difficult times. It is also the right of the farmers to demand the drought relief. Hence, I appeal that the Union home minister, considering the severity of the situation, should announce the drought relief immediately,” said Gowda.

“Our Opposition — the BJP and JD(S) — have made an alliance. If they have concerns about the people of the state, they should meet the Union home minister and make him announce the drought relief grants today (11 February). I request this from all my Opposition brothers,” he said.

“If they had genuine concern over farmers’ issues, if they aren’t doing drama, they should meet the Union home minister who provides funds to the state, and ensure the release of grants. If they do so, I will thank the Union government and also the Opposition,” he added.

The minister further said that he would be compelled to call the Opposition leaders in the state dongis’ (fake) if they didn’t make any attempt to ensure drought relief for Karnataka.