Karnataka State Chief Minister
For several weeks we have been hearing about Karnataka Chief Minister, H. D. Kumaraswamy’s visits and night halts in villages. Farmers in some villages were in great difficulty because of failure of sugar mills to buy sugarcane on time. Several were driven to commit suicide. There are of course a variety of problems villagers have in their lives and the government machinery is unable to deliver timely help due to inefficiency and corruption. Young Kumaraswamy was moved to go to the affected areas to find out what was going on and to learn what he could do to help.
This is what he learned from these visits:
“Even as Chief Minister I am helpless in solving some of the problems faced by the people.”
“I did not learn a thing from the third floor of Vidhan Sauda (state legislative assembly) nor from any senior officers in the Government. I learned a lot from the people of the villages I stayed in. I am happy that I am away from my office in Bangalore for the last 15 days. I could travel far and wide from Bidar to Chamrajanagar and understand the problems of the people.”
“I heard of youths falling into the traps laid by Naxalites because the Government had failed to provide them jobs. Even the funds sanctioned for pension of widows had been misappropriated.”
“Copra prices fell steeply. Farmers were in soup. I released money for direct purchase of Copra from farmers. But it was the traders who got the benefit.”
“Banks in the rural areas are unable to respond to the schemes of the Government. I issued a cheque for Rs. 50,000 to a woman for hospital expenses in January. She could not encash it till April, when I intervened. Banks turned her away as she could not provide proof of identity. She did not have even a ration card.”
(Quoted from a front-page report in daily newspaper The Hindu of June 4, 2007.)
Kumaraswamy spent more than 32 nights in villages and tribal settlements. Inspired by what he learned from these visits he also met and talked directly with groups of liberated Devadasis, auto drivers of Bangalore and other struggling communities of the poor. He feels that all his reading of books and reports of Government officials are shallow in comparison to knowledge he gained by direct contact with the people.
The Chief Minister was so moved that he has decided to quit his office much earlier than due. This kind of daring, honest admissions and change of heart are so rare among politicians. Kumaraswamy has set a very valuable and convincing precedent for other public functionaries. I write them as a Saturday story because think the events are worth sharing with you friends.
June 9, 2007