Congress skips 3-year rule celebrations in Karnataka

Bengaluru: In the wake of severe drought and various controversies, the ruling Congress in Karnataka has decided not to celebrate completion of its three-year rule in the state on Friday. Instead, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah marked the occasion by a public function here where he met about 600 beneficiaries of his government's flagship welfare schemes and received their feedback to improve them. "In view of the drought situation and drinking water crisis across the state, the government has resolved to step up relief to mitigate the people's hardships and review the schemes to reach out to more underprivileged people," an official told IANS. The Congress returned to power after a decade by winning 122 of the 225 seats in the May 2013 assembly elections and consolidated its hold on the state despite bickering by a section of its lawmakers for not making them ministers or heads of boards. Claiming that welfare schemes like 'Anna Bhagya', 'Ksheera Bhagya' and 'Ksheera Dhaare' had benefitted people across the state, Siddaramaiah told the gathering that an official survey had confirmed their popularity, as all sections, including students and farmers, were benefitted. "Under the Anna Bhagya or subsidised food scheme, 18 million below poverty line families (or about 50 million people) buy rice, wheat, jowar and ragi (millet) at Rs.1-2 per kg per month, iodised salt at Rs.2 per kg and palm oil at Rs.25 per litre," the chief minister said. Similarly, under 'Ksheera Bhagya', about 10 million boys and girls and anganwadi kids are supplied 150 ml milk free of cost thrice a week to make them attend classes daily in state-run and state-aided schools. "Our 'Ksheera Dhaare' scheme is also benefitting 8.6-lakh farmer families, as they are given Rs.4 per litre subsidy from the Rs.2,500-crore allocation for producing more milk and milk products," he said. According to state Infrastructure Development and Information Minister Roshan Baig, the state waived off Rs.1,340-crore loans borrowed by about 10 million poor people hailing from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, backward classes and minorities under the 'Runamukthi' (debt-free) welfare scheme. Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leaders and lawmakers, however, slammed the ruling Congress for betraying people on many fronts, including its failure to provide good governance, checking corruption, tackling power crisis, preventing suicides by about 1,000 farmers in the last fiscal, inadequate relief aid to the drought-affected and rising crime in Bengaluru. "The Congress government is steeped in corruption, lethargy and complacency, as evident from the plight of the people in the state, especially farmers and the poor due to rising cost of living, delay in relief works and inadequate water supply," BJP leader and Leader of Opposition Jagadish Shettar told reporters here. JD-S leader H.D. Kumaraswamy said: "Siddaramaiah and his cabinet colleagues should introspect on what all they have done during their rule, as the people are suffering from drought, water shortage and lack of development in the state.