All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Jayalalithaa on Saturday accused Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi of betraying the interests of farmers and held the DMK government responsible for causing a downslide in agricultural production in the State.

Terming the DMK regime anti-farmer and anti-people, she called upon the people to use their franchise intelligently to dislodge it and vote the AIADMK to power to protect the interests of Tamil Nadu.

Addressing a public meeting, she said Mr. Karunanidhi had not taken any steps to get the State's rightful share of Cauvery water from Karnataka. The water table had gone down drastically in the State owing to indiscriminate sand mining from riverbeds and farmers were unable to tap even the available water owing to acute power shortage. Agriculture had become an unviable proposition for farmers, she said.

Punctuating her over one-and-a-half hour speech with songs from Tamil films to highlight the plight of farmers and fishermen, Ms. Jayalalithaa charged Mr. Karunanidhi with repeatedly betraying the State's interests in the Cauvery water dispute since the 1970s. The Chief Minister had not taken steps to get the final award of the Cauvery Tribunal published in the gazette. The area under kuruvai cultivation had come down by 50,000 hectares, even by the admission of a DMK Minister, owing to the delay in releasing water from the Mettur dam, normally opened on June 12.

Mr. Karunanidhi was trying to create an impression that Karnataka had released water in Cauvery now. But the Karnataka Irrigation Minister had made it clear that only the surplus water from Kabini had been released. Given the water scarcity, power shortage and poor returns, farmers were selling off their lands. Farm labourers were falling into a debt trap and migrating to urban centres looking for jobs. “Tamil Nadu will face a famine if this situation continued. Some people will say that foodgrains could be imported. This is dangerous and this will only lead to further price rise,” she cautioned.

Ms. Jayalalithaa also accused Mr. Karunanidhi of surrendering the interests of Tamil Nadu fishermen by ceding Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka. Now, Tamil Nadu fishermen were being subject to attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy.

The DMK government had failed to take any steps to curb price rise, which affected all sections of society. Despite promises from the government, no solution had been found to overcome power shortage. “Instead of power, only the power tariff hike has come,” she observed.

The functioning of the Police, Education and Food departments had witnessed a downslide. Law and order had deteriorated in the State. Smuggling of ration rice was rampant.

It was unheard of for a ruling party to stage an agitation against the Opposition leader, she said referring to the recent DMK agitation against adjournments sought by her in the wealth case.

D. Jayakumar and R. Vaithilingam, MLAs, R. Manoharan, urban district secretary, and Subramanian, rural district secretary, Tiruchi, spoke.