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Kumaraswamy Meets PM Modi, Seeks Early Release of Funds for Drought Relief

Kumaraswamy Meets PM Modi, Seeks Early Release of Funds for Drought Relief

Kumaraswamy informed Modi that the state faced drought during this year's kharif season as well but the financial assistance sanctioned by the central government was inadequate.

Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Saturday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sought early release of Rs 2,064.30 crore to provide relief to drought-hit farmers in the ongoing rabi season. He appealed to the central government to release pending funds under NDRF as well as accumulating wage payments under MGNREGA.

In a letter addressed to the prime minister, Kumaraswamy informed him about the flood and landslides that ravaged Karnataka and how the state reeled under severe drought both during kharif (summer) and rabi (winter) seasons of the 2018-19 crop year.

He also specified the state’s memorandum seeking financial assistance from the Centre of Rs 2,434 crore as per NDRF/ SDRF norms. However, the Centre has only approved Rs. 949.49 crore as assistance so far, the letter said.

The letter also highlighted that out of the 176 talukas in Karnataka, 156 have been declared drought affected. Of these, 107 are severely affected and 49 are moderately affected. The revenue department has estimated the total crop loss during kharif and rabi seasons at Rs 32,335 crore, which has had an adverse effect on the state’s economy, the chief minister pointed out in the letter.

Kumarswamy had recently hit out at Modi for criticising the coalition government’s efforts to implement the farm loan waiver scheme in the state. During his visit to Kalaburgi on March 6, Modi panned the scheme and also blamed the state government for not letting central grants reach the farmers of Karnataka. Kumarswamy had retorted on Twitter, saying he expects the PM to “speak the truth”.

“Before ridiculing the farmer initiatives by Karnataka government, look into your own government at how the existing schemes are inaccessible to the needy. Karnataka has paid the wages of MGNREGA from December 2018, with advances from the state fund,” Kumarswamy had further said.

In the letter, Kumaraswamy apprised the Prime Minister about the pro-active steps taken by Karnataka to mitigate the drought impact on farmers. The state has released Rs 386 crore from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and given priority to ensure drinking water and fodder, besides creating 1.19 crore man-days jobs under the MGNREGA scheme, he said. Karnataka has already made provisions for an advance of Rs 1,351 crore towards payment of pending wage and material bills, in anticipation of release of funds from Government of India, he added.

Karnataka's Rural Development and Panchayati Raj minister Krishna Byre Gowda believes that this rural distress, caused due to neglect by the Centre, will come back to haunt them in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. He also feels that this bias towards non-BJP ruled states in allocation of funds could dent the Central government’s image.

"Our approximate fund requirement for December to March is Rs 2,000 crore, but we have got only close to Rs 200 crore. The state government is paying about Rs 940 crore from its own treasury. This should have ideally come from the Centre. So, if any sentiments are hurt, it will be directed towards the central government. They haven’t paid the poor labourers but the state is doing its best," Gowda said.

Reports in The Hindu, back in January, had suggested that the Centre would ask states to use their own funds to pay workers, as the scheme was left with less than ₹2,000 crore for this financial year. The report also suggested that Centre would repay the states by the first week of April. But till then states such as West Bengal and Karnataka would have to pay from their own funds.