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North Karnataka, reeling under neglect

Thirteen districts of north Karnataka recently raised a fresh cry for a separate State, pointing out that Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s budgetary allocations favoured only the southern districts. The crisis has blown over and Mr. Kumaraswamy has clarified that he has big plans for the development of the region. Historical neglect during the pre-Independence era, coupled with apathy after unification of Karnataka, has often been cited as the reason for backwardness of north Karnataka. Almost on all markers of development, there is a marked lag. A symbol of this has been the Krishna. People of the region have always argued that the river and projects related to it never get the attention that the Cauvery in south Karnataka does. In recent times, the delay in solving the long-pending inter-State Mahadayi river row has been cited as another pointer to the apathy.

Has no government taken note?

In 2000, the S.M. Krishna-led Congress government constituted a high-powered committee for redress of regional imbalances led by D.M. Nanjundappa. After an exhaustive study, the committee, in its report in 2003, listed 39 taluks as the “most backward.” As many as 26 of them were from seven districts of north Karnataka. The committee also indicated the quantum of resources required to ensure these taluks caught up with the others in development. Along with a special development plan of ₹16,000 crore over eight years, the committee pleaded for an optimal 60:40 ratio in favour of the northern region as a basis for additional resource allocation. However, despite acknowledging that implementation of the recommendations holds the key to the development, successive governments have paid only lip-service to the issue.

Why is it difficult?

There are imbalances within the region. The 13 districts are further categorised into Hyderabad Karnataka and Bombay Karnataka (of Bombay Presidency). Compared with Bombay Karnataka, developmental lag is worse in Hyderabad Karnataka, the region which was under the Hyderabad Nizam’s domain till its liberation in 1948. The identification of two of the districts of the region, Bidar and Kalaburagi (earlier Gulbarga), as the poorest districts in the country in the National Sample Survey in 2005 and their subsequent inclusion in the food for work programme are indicative of the state of affairs.

What has been done so far?

Amendment to the Constitution that gave special status to the Hyderabad Karnataka region under Article 371(J) has been seen as a big move towards development. However, the downside is that the Hyderabad Karnataka grouping has discouraged employees from other regions from working here. Over 1.30 lakh posts are still vacant in the region and development projects, particularly related to infrastructure and irrigation, often find lower or little allocation. As per official data, ₹13,565 crore of the ₹16,000 crore recommended by the Nanjundappa Committee has been spent between 2006-07 and 2014-15. However, development is not palpable, say people of the region.

What is the way ahead?

Lack of political will is often cited as the biggest reason for backwardness, though the region has sent five Chief Ministers so far. But reasons are deeper, point out some studies. The Centre for Multi Disciplinary Research (CMDR), based in Dharwad, came out with a “Critical analysis of Dr. D.M. Nanjunadappa Committee Report and its implementation” by Shiddalingaswami V. Hanagodimath in 2014. It says: “This regional imbalance is the product of plans, because plan makers have concentrated on overall development than the potential and availability of resources in different regions and its optimum utilisation. Hence, regional disparity has increased.” The Siddaramaiah government had asked the CMDR to review the implementation of the Nanjundappa committee report. It submitted a draft report earlier this year, and the Kumaraswamy government must take it forward.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 8:35:43 AM |

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