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Karnataka: Supply of chemical fertilisers bungled
If politicians were more sensitive than the governor to issues like supply of fertilisers to farmers as the BJP leader implied, then why did not they bring this fact to the notice of the governor? He would have heard them.

A CHIEF minister, who has just assumed office, would have been happier to receive better tidings. But Karnataka chief minister (CM) Yeddyurappa (BSY – he does not like being referred to as Yeddy by the press) had to face the ire of the wife, mother and relatives of a farmer who died in police firing when farmers resorted to violence in Haveri town (near Hubli) owing to fertilisers becoming scarce. BSY has since vowed that his government would not use bullets against the farming community, whatever the provocation. He followed it up with a flying visit to New Delhi where he met the Prime Minister and the minister of chemicals and fertilisers, Ram Vilas Paswan and requested the two to expedite supply of chemical fertilisers.

Earlier, before leaving for Haveri town, BSY blamed the central government for the crisis. It had promised to release 2.3 lakh tonnes of DAP and complex fertilisers but released only 48,000 tonnes. DAP stock in Karnataka was a meagre 3,821 tonnes as of April 1, 2008, as against the 52,962 tonnes on the same day the previous year. Complex fertilisers’ stock on April 1, 2008, was a meagre 9,409 tonnes compared to the 73,793 tonnes on the same day the previous year. But BSY conveniently forgot to explain why these facts were being brought to the notice of the people only now. Karnataka is a major beneficiary of the south-west monsoon and being a farmer himself, he should have known that farmers would demand chemical fertilisers as soon as the first monsoon showers arrived. At least ten clear days were available to his government after it was sworn in, to look into this sad state of affairs in the state’s ministry of agriculture. His government should have attended to this first before taking up allocation of portfolios. None, least of all the people of Karnataka would have regretted the delay in the allocation of portfolios.

It is unfortunate that all political parties, instead of learning from past mistakes, politicise the issue so they can make political capital out of it. The blame game has already begun. The President of the Karnataka unit of the BJP, D V Sadananda Gowda has blamed the Governor of the state for the shortage of chemical fertilisers. After all, the state was under President’s rule for the past six months and hence the Governor and his officers should have anticipated the crisis. Well, the Governor headed a caretaker government and he took over the administration of the state because the fight for power between the JD(S) and BJP denied the people the services (!) of an elected government. If politicians were more sensitive than the governor to issues like supply of fertilisers to farmers as the BJP leader implied, then why did not the politicians bring this fact to the notice of the governor? He would not have denied them an audience. On the other hand, he would have heard them out and instructed the secretary of the department of agriculture of the state to swing into action. But politicians like Sadananda Gowda were preoccupied with chasing power.

The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader, Mallikarjun Kharge has demanded a judicial enquiry into the killing. According to him, there was no truth in the CM’s allegation that the entire issue smacked of conspiracy. Kharge is right in saying that there is no conspiracy behind the unfortunate incident. The CM’s allegation is of a routine nature and it is typically made by any politician belonging to the ruling party under circumstances like this. But being a Congress leader who hails from a drought-prone district and familiar with agricultural operations, Kharge, through his good offices, could have arranged prompt release of chemical fertilisers for the consumption of the farming community of the state. Why did not he do it? Again, for politicians like Kharge or Sadananda Gowda, there are more precious things to do. Obviously, it is capturing power.

JD(S) MLA, H D Revanna, a former minister, better known as former Prime Minister Deve Gowda’s elder son, has demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident. According to him, those who ordered the firing and executed it should be punished. The government was responsible for the crisis. It had mishandled it. But I doubt his father, viz., H D Deve Gowda would approve of a CBI inquiry into the incident. Deve Gowda did not want the CBI to enquire into his awarding the UKP works, involving an outlay of Rs 900 crores without calling for tenders (vide, "Karnataka: BJP and JD(S) to scratch each other’s back?"). Revanna himself will not want the CBI to inquire into his awarding contracts concerning 17 projects to electrify 49 villages in various districts at a cost of Rs 641 crores, as against the Centre-approved cost of Rs 375 crores (vide, "Karnataka: H D Revanna, a law unto himself", dated November 27, 2007).

Lastly, arranging supply of chemical fertilisers and pesticides is a routine exercise on the part of the state government. It hardly matters whether a popular government is in place or not, at the time. Thus, the department concerned (it is generally the department of agriculture) which is familiar with this routine could have easily arranged prompt delivery of chemical fertilisers. Why did the department not wake up in time? Or does it necessarily need its minister to rouse it to action?

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