Karnataka Food and Civil Supplies Minister Umesh Katti on Wednesday drew flak from Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and opposition parties for reportedly asking a farmer to die when he requested increased supply of rice through the Public Distribution System. Katti later withdrew his statement, tendered an apology and said he never wanted anyone to die and that everyone should prosper.
Ishwar, a farmer activist from Gadag in North Karnataka, rang up Katti on Wednesday and asked him how he expected people to survive on just two kg of rice a month when the lockdown has rendered thousands jobless. To Ishwar's query, the minister replied that the Union government would be giving five kg foodgrains in May and June in view of the lockdown.This did not satisfy the farmer, who then sought to know whether people should fast till that period or die.
"It's better to die. It's better that you stop the business of selling rice. Don't ring me again," Katti said.
The government had decided to give two kg of rice and three kg of ragi through PDS in south Karnataka,and two kg of rice and three kg of either maize or wheat in North Karnataka.
The minister later clarified that he never meant anyone should die and that all 6.5 crore people in Karnataka should prosper and survive. He said the entire quota of food grains under the PDS for April, alloted by the Union government, had already been distributed. "What can I do if someone makes such a statement? We are giving the central quota from May 1 to May 10. No one should die and no one should ask such questions," he said.
The Chief Minister's Office, in a statement, quoted Yediyurappa as saying that he disapproved of the remarks and that it does not behove a minister to tell a farmer to die when the latter demanded five kg of rice. "Arrangements are being made to give five kg of rice to the people in the area who do not need wheat," he said.
State Congress chief DK Shivakumar slammed Katti's remarks and demanded that the government remove him from his post. "BJP Minister Umesh Katti has abused a citizen & asked him to 'go die' just because he asked him why Karnataka Govt has cut Rice under PDS to just 2 kgs! "CM @BSYBJP (Yediyurappa) must immediately throw him out of the cabinet for this most insensitive statement. Does this Govt have any shame? (sic)," Shivakumar tweeted.
Former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy too lambasted Katti for his statement. "The Food and Civil Supplies Minister, who is supposed to come to the aid of the starving people in this COVID-19 pandemic, has displayed his mental distortion," he tweeted. He said it was 'inhumane' on the part of the Minister to make such a statement.