Will flood relief find focus in campaign?

Eight of 15 constituencies that go to polls next month have been badly affected by floods

Of the 15 constituencies that go to polls next month, eight have been badly affected by floods that hit the State in July and October. While Athani, Gokak, Kagwad, and Yellapur were the worst hit, there was significant damage in Ranebennur, Hirekerur and Vijayanagar (Hospete), and Hunsur. The moot question is whether the issue of flood relief will resonate as an issue as the State goes to bypolls on December 5.

The Congress has been talking of inadequate and half-hearted flood relief, with little help from the Centre in terms of financial aid. The BJP, on the other hand, has been claiming that there was never a dearth of fund or focus.

“If there is one important issue in this bypoll, it is the failure of the government in ensuring proper flood relief. Farmers know that the government has not stood by them. Their anger will definitely reflect in the elections,” says farmers’ leader Sidagouda Motagi.

However, not many share his opinion. “People may have suffered in the floods. But, it will not become a political issue,” argues Ashok Chandaragi, leader of Kannada organisations. “The image and influence of leaders, caste and religion and membership of local groups will finally decide the results.”

Lachchappa Hunshyal, whose house was damaged in the floods, has been living in a tent in Gonaganur village. But, he does not connect flood relief to elections. He says he will wait for the relief. “Some leaders from our village have promised to help us. I am hopeful they will,” he says.

The figures for north Karnataka reveal that 13 districts of Mumbai and Hyderabad-Karnataka account for nearly 80% of the flood damage. Around ₹28,000 crore of the ₹34,000 crore loss was in north Karnataka districts. Of this, Belagavi and Bagalkot district accounted for nearly 72% of the losses, say revenue officials.

The government has claimed that it acted immediately and addressed the problems of flood victims. But, not all the victims agree. While Home minister Basavaraj Bommai said ex gratia was increased by the State government to ₹10,000, a glance at the flood review notes submitted to the State government by the district administration reveals a different picture.

For instance in Belagavi, of the 2.2 lakh families who suffered flood damage, only 1.3 lakh have received the ex gratia amount. Of the 67,000 families whose houses collapsed, the data of around 55,000 has been entered by the district officials and around 45,000 families have got the first instalment of ₹1 lakh. There was delay in updating the details of the remaining 22,000 families due to technical issues. “They will get the money in some time,” said a senior officer. “During a visit to Belagavi, the Chief Minister promised ₹five lakh per house, while the National Disaster Relief Fund guidelines mandate ₹95,000 per complete damage. The Rajiv Gandhi Housing Corporation will release the additional amount in phases to beneficiaries who take up construction of houses,” the officer clarified.

Crop loss compensation disbursal is nearly complete across nine districts of north Karnataka. However, that has been done as per the NDRF guidelines and not the additional compensation promised by the State government.

Another officer said that inadequate release from the Centre was a cause for concern. “Against the request of ₹34,000 crore, we got ₹1,200 crore from the Centre. This is being allocated in proportion to the loss in each block,” a senior officer with the Revenue Department said. In cases where the Chief Minister or a Minister has promised people that further relief will be added to the Central component, such assurances will be kept based on the allocations for 2018-19 and 2019-20,” the officer said.

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