THE POLITICS OF DROUGHT
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