Beyond Lingayat Hype, Something Else May Haunt Siddaramaiah

Even as political pundits are engaged in heated debate over what the possible impact of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s decision to accord separate status of religion to Lingayats in Karnataka would be, there is something else that may haunt him in the long run. And that is large number of farmer’s suicide in the state. Karnataka, one of the most naturally abundant states in India, is facing a severe crisis of droughts and weak agriculture. According to state’s own statistics department, as many as 3,515 farmers in Karnataka have committed suicide between April 2013 and November 2017. Of these, 2,525 suicides were due to drought and farm failure, as per the state agriculture department said.

According to a PTI report in December 2017, 3,515 farmers were reported to have committed suicide from April 2013 to November 2017; from April 2008 to April 2012, as many as 1,125 farmers were reported to have committed suicide.Out of the 3,515 suicide cases reported, the agriculture department accepted 2,525 cases as being due to drought and crop failure, the data said.

Agriculture Director B.Y. Srinivas told mediapersons that as many as 112 suicide cases were pending for the want of ratification by a state government panel since 2013. The highest number of suicides (1,483) were reported during 2015-16 and lowest (106) during 2013-14, Srinivas said. “Sugarcane growers top the list of suicides, followed by cotton and paddy cultivators,” and

“As many as 1,332 cases have been registered against money lenders, of which 585 have been arrested in last three years,” were the statements attributed to him.

The farmers who committed suicides included the cultivators of coconut, paddy, areca nut, cash crops and various others. It is just behind Maharashtra in terms of farmers in distress. The signs of this distress are evident even now through the numerous marches that have been taken out in various parts of the state during last few years. The Maharashtra is still in rough weather on resolving the agrarian crisis that has engulfed the state and dented the state’s image in a big way.

It is a common knowledge that the Siddaramaiah government has failed to address the farmers’ plight effectively. So obviously enough, the government is pushed to the corner over the issue. And hence, Siddaramaiah finds it necessary to conjure up issues that have more sentimental appeal than the practical one. Thus, imposition of Hindi and separate flag becomes more pertinent issue than the rising number of farmers’ suicides. Separate Lingayat religion becomes more important than the environmental degradation in cities like Bangalore.

The state government has faced flak for its utter failure in resolving many issues. Moreover, the pulbic opinion is largely becoming hostile to the government due to its failure in arresting the criminialisation of politics. And just ahead of the assembly elections, it has tried to divide Lingayats and Veerashaivas, also Lingayats and other communities, by announcing minority status for them. All this manuevering may bring headlines and mileage to the Congress, but it cannot ensure victory in the electoral fray.