Farmer protests have erupted in the BJP ruled states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and there is a chance of it being spread to Rajasthan as well. The Congress Party is claiming to be the savior of the farmers and is going all guns blazing against the BJP. The Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi tried to visit Mandsaur in MP which has been affected the worst by this protest where large scale violence has resulted in destruction of property and loss of life. When he was apprehended by the state police, Mr. Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his government, and the BJP of being anti-farmer and said “They don’t waive off farmers’ loan. Neither do they give any bonuses. Bullets are what all they give”.
Mr. Rahul Gandhi has forgotten that his party is in power in a state where the situation of farmers is arguably worse than what it is in Maharashtra and MP. He has probably forgotten that this state has been affected by drought for the 4th consecutive year and this is the worst drought in more than 42 years. Farmers here are in a terrible situation and the Congress led government in the state has ruled out the possibility of waiving off loan. This state is Karnataka which has seen its worst drought in 42 years and farmers here are in a very bad situation. In many part of the state, especially in North Karnataka which is the second most arid region in India, next only to the Thar Desert; this is the fourth consecutive drought. If the monsoon isn’t normal this year, then the situation can get very critical. There is no doubt that the farmers are in a very tough situation in Karnataka.
What is surprising that the state government has adamantly refused to waive of loans despite such a tough situation the farmers are in at the moment. Well waiving off loans might not be the best solution and we could have sympathized with the government if they could have come up with a better solution. But the funny thing is that although the farmer loans were not waived off, the state government came up with more populist schemes in the state budget, eyeing its vote bank in the state elections scheduled for next year.
One such scheme was the scheme to offer subsidies and invest a huge amount of ₹7.25 crore in setting up new as well as modernizing existing slaughterhouses, a move clearly done to benefit the core vote bank of the Congress Party.
There have been many such schemes from the Karnataka State government like the Shaadi Bhagya, Ksheera Bhagya, Anna Bhagya, and so on. These schemes have been criticized severely by many intellectuals across Karnataka, including eminent writer SL Bhyrappa and the Jnanapeetha awardee Chandrashekara Kumbhar. They have rightly said that rather than offering freebies, they should create opportunities so that people are empowered and can look after themselves.
But despite severe criticism, CM Siddaramiah has vehemently defended these schemes. There is no doubt that these schemes have had a negative impact on the economy of Karnataka. The state’s debt had increased to ₹24,768.84 crore last year.
The Karnataka unit of the BJP has demanded that the state government waive off loans in the state and has warned of a stir if the government does not do so. However, the government has said that since the farmers have repaid 95% of the loans, there is no need of a waiver. But this claim of the government has been contested by farmer representatives who say that the loans have been repaid or re distributed only on paper and not in reality as the government is claiming.
Nevertheless, let us forget about the waiving off loans at the moment. The government has to at least compensate the farmers for the crop loss that they suffered due to the worst drought in 42 years. It is not only legally, but also morally right on the part of the government to ensure that the farmers are compensated. Especially for a government that is made up of a party which claims to be pro-farmer.
Has the Karnataka government done this right? Well they have committed a blunder while compensating farmers in the state.
Farmers in Vijayapura (Bijapur), Hassan, and Koppal districts have claimed that they have received ₹1 as compensation! Just imagine. ₹1 as compensation to the very part of society the Congress so proudly claims to represent. The BJP which has been under fire from the Congress for being anti farmer has rightly questioned the state government for this gaffe that has been committed.
In its defence, the government has claimed that this was a “test case” to ensure that money was being sent to the right account and since the test was successful, they can comfortably send the compensation money.
Even if what the government says is correct and it is indeed a test case, then also there is no doubt that this state government has failed the farmers in the state. In fact not just the government, but the entire polity in the state of Karnataka has failed its people. Not just the Congress alone, the JD(S) and the BJP also have to take the blame for the plight of the farmers, especially the plight of the farmers in North Karnataka which as I stated earlier is drought prone and the second most arid region in the entire country. The Kalasa-Banduri project which aims to provide water to the Dharwad, Belagavi, and Gadag districts is in a state of deadlock and all the three parties have done nothing but blame each other.
The bottom line is that the Congress is no friend of the farmer as it is claiming to be in Madhya Pradesh and in Maharashtra and will claim if such protests do occur in different parts of the country. The party will just support the farmers for namesake and use the occasion to score political points over the BJP which is its chief rival. It has never been and will never be a friend to the farmer and the situation in Karnataka is the perfect example of this fact.