THE POL­I­TICS OF DROUGHT

India Today - - NATION - By Sowmya Aji

Se­nior of­fi­cials say that most of the money sanc­tioned for drought re­lief is si­phoned off Drought ap­pears to be the way out of scams and scan­dals BJP was look­ing for. With drought de­clared in 70 per cent of Kar­nataka, the stage is set for the Sadananda Gowda gov­ern­ment to show that it has man­aged the cri­sis well and thus cor­rect its im­age.

The key rea­son for declar­ing a

taluk as drought-hit is not so much con­cern for peo­ple as the money that gets sanc­tioned to­wards em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion and con­struc­tion of water struc­tures. Of­fi­cials ad­mit that most of this money is si­phoned off.

Law Min­is­ter S. Suresh Kumar and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Ja­gadish Shet­tar main­tain that the gov­ern­ment’s only in­ten­tion is to en­sure some money flows into the ru­ral econ­omy to mit­i­gate the im­pact of the drought. “Peo­ple are des­per­ate and if this en­sures food and money to them, so be it. There is no other way of get­ting it to them, even if there is cor­rup­tion,’’ says Kumar. Shet­tar says there were gen­uine prob­lems in get­ting the funds to peo­ple through

MGNREGA. “We man­aged to get ar­rears of Rs 700 crore of MGNREGA projects re­leased due to the in­ter­ven­tion of Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jairam Ramesh. Peo­ple have been wait­ing for this for months,” he says.

Kar­nataka wit­nessed drought in 2003-2004 when 162 of 175 taluks were de­clared drought-hit. S.M. Kr­ishna, the then chief min­is­ter, later lost the 2004 Assem­bly polls badly. Shet­tar, how­ever, says, “We won’t suf­fer po­lit­i­cally.”

PARCHED LAND IN KAR­NATAKA’S DE­VANA­HALLI TALUK

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