By P.T. Bopanna

After inflicting the tragedy on the people of Kodagu by celebrating Tipu jayanthi during his previous tenure, chief minister Siddarmaiah seems to have plotted a comedy show this time at the expense of the people of Kodagu (Coorg) by announcing an airport for Kodagu.

Before coming to the airport project, I wish to note that even though Siddaramaiah takes pride in the fact that he has presented 14 Karnataka budgets, as a student of economics, I feel his budgets have been mediocre.

His record number of budgets is akin to a bowler claiming he had bowled so many overs without taking a wicket.

It is not the numbers which is important. Dr Manmohan Singh’s epochal 1991 budget under the helm of P.V. Narasimha Rao, laid the foundation for making Indian economy a power house. It is another matter that Modi’s demonetisation undid the success achieved by the gains made during the initial years of Dr Singh as prime minister.

Closer home, we had Tamil Nadu finance minister PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan, who during his tenure, developed the concept of the ‘Dravidian model’ which would positively enhance the living standards of people for generations to come.

But personally I would prefer the ‘Kerala model’ where focus has been on enhancing the human development parameters.

The flagship scheme of Siddaramaiah’s budget from his previous tenure has been to provide free rice. This would have been a great scheme, if it was confined to the “poorest of the poor”. But in reality, free rice scheme of Siddaramaiah amounts to vote bank politics because most of the beneficiaries are above the poverty line, and part of the support base of the Congress.

Hailing from Kodagu, I know how the free rice scheme has led to absenteeism and alcoholism among the working classes. Most of the labourers work for one or two days in a week because they are assured of free ration. The excess rice is sold to the merchants and the money is spent on buying liquor.

In the circumstances, I feel Siddaramaiah conducts an audit of the free rice scheme to ascertain its impact on the lives of the poor. Otherwise, it amounts to ‘repeating the same dose until the patient dies’.

Coming back to the airport project proposed in his latest budget, it is nothing but a ‘copy paste’ from his 2017 budget where he had announced the airport project.

The secretary in-charge of budget making this time should be given the title of ‘copy paste king’.

The finance department officials who did the copy paste job should have known there have been several developments since 2017, when Kodagu experienced heavy landslides for two years from 2018. Moreover, an international airport has come up at Kannur in Kerala, bordering Kodagu.

The Kodagu landscape has become very fragile and an airport should be the last thing on the agenda. There is an urgent need for conducting a study on ‘carrying capacity’ of Kodagu, before taking up major projects.

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