Drought relief delay sparks heated exchange between Siddaramaiah and Amit Shah

While Amit Shah said the Karnataka government was late by three months to ask for drought relief, Siddaramaiah stated multiple proposals were sent to the Union government in the last five months.
Drought relief delay sparks heated exchange between Siddaramaiah and Amit Shah
Drought relief delay sparks heated exchange between Siddaramaiah and Amit Shah
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Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Union Home Minister Amit Shah engaged in a fiery exchange of words on Tuesday, April 2, regarding the alleged non-release of drought relief funds by the Union government to the state. Siddaramaiah accused the BJP-led Union government of neglecting the welfare of Karnataka's people and betraying their trust, while Shah pointed fingers at the Congress government for delaying the submission of the relief proposal.

Addressing a BJP workers’ convention in Bengaluru, Shah criticised the state government, alleging that it prioritised political manoeuvres instead of addressing the drought crisis. He accused the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister of being preoccupied with internal power struggles rather than serving the people of Karnataka. “The Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister here...one is busy trying to save his chair and the other is busy trying to snatch the chair. No one has the people of Karnataka in their mind," Shah said. 

"There is drought in Karnataka. The state government was late by three months in sending a proposal, and today the application for drought relief from the Union government is with the Election Commission. They (Congress government) are doing politics over it," he added. However, Siddaramaiah highlighted the prolonged delay of five months and said that no relief has been provided despite multiple appeals to the Union government. 

Speaking in Mysuru, he said, “Three memorandums have been given since October. A central team (Inter-Ministerial Central Team or IMCT) had submitted their report to the Union government after an inspection. I personally met PM Narendra Modi on December 19, Amit Shah on December 20, he had said he will call a meeting and decide on December 23 itself. How many days have passed since then? Did they give? It has been five months, till now they have not given drought relief. Is Amit Shah giving the money from his house? Is it a bhikshe (alms)? It's our money, our tax money," the Chief Minister said. 

Karnataka has declared 223 out of 236 taluks as drought-hit, 196 of them were categorised as severely drought affected. The Karnataka government had approached the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking Rs 18,171.44 crore under the NDRF. Under the Manual for Drought Management, the Union government was required to take a final decision on the assistance to the State from the NDRF within a month of the receipt of the Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT). But even six months after the IMCT submitted its report, the Union government failed to take any decision. 

Read: ‘Union govt violating state’s fundamental rights’: Karnataka in SC over drought relief

Congress has been using the delay in drought relief as one of the major criticisms against the BJP in its Lok Sabha election campaign. The party has also drawn attention to concerns surrounding the clearance of Union projects and has alleged unfair treatment regarding tax devolution and the allocation of grants to the state.

Siddaramaiah took to social media to challenge Shah's claims, accusing him of dishonesty regarding the timeline of events. He said that the state had promptly submitted drought memorandums and criticised the Union government's inaction despite multiple reminders. Asking Shah to understand the chronology, the chief minister said the state assessed the drought twice, and on September 23, submitted the first Memorandum to the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Home Affairs. Following this, from October 4 to 9, the IMCT team visited Karnataka to assess the ground situation.

On November 20, the Agriculture Ministry forwarded Karnataka's proposal along with recommendation by the subcommittee of the National Executive Committee, to be presented before the High-Level Committee chaired by the Home Minister Amit Shah. He also pointed out  his meetings with the Prime Minister and Amit Shah himself in December. 

Siddaramaiah said, "So, from November 2023 till now, you and your Ministry have been sleeping over the matter, while our 35 lakh farmers, having suffered from crop and income losses, are waiting for input subsidies of over Rs 4,663 crores. When these are the facts, it is really surprising that you should so blatantly lie to the people of Karnataka."

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