Hassan: On the face of it, many people in Hassan district take pride in the fact that one of India’s prime ministers HD Deve Gowda of Janata Dal Secular (JD(S)) was from this place, but there is also unhappiness over lack of development, growing unemployment and farmers’ distress. Their main grievance is that the district has not been developed enough like Shivamogga and Bengaluru despite electing political heavyweight Gowda as MP for five times from Hassan, a JD(S) bastion, dominated by Vokkaliga community to which he belongs.
As the electioneering has entered the final phase for the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections, voters are debating about their choice. During 2013, JD(S) had won five out of seven seats in Hassan district, the rest two by Congress.
“We are facing drinking water problem for last 10 years. Because of poor rains, the groundwater level has gone down and the two borewells which 150 houses depend upon, are not working properly,” Vanjashri Gowda who stays in Sathigala area of Sakleshpur constituency said.
As a result, Gowda, who works in a coffee plantation, walks about 2 km daily to fetch drinking water from small streams that flow nearby. “These borewells with hand pumps were installed when Deve Gowda became chief minister for the first time (in 1994). Thereafter, there has been no development,” she says and adds that even roads are equally bad here.
Unemployment, crash in coffee and pepper prices, white-stem borer disease in the coffee crop, wild elephant attack on human beings among others are problems haunting people of Sakleshpura constituency, where there is triangular fight between JD(S), Congress and BJP.
Malleshappa, who owns 15 acres of coffee plantation in Sakleshpura says, “We had high expectation from Deve Gowda. He is known as ‘mannina maga’ (son of the soil). What has he done for poor farmers?”
“Pepper prices have crashed due to cheaper imports. If the situation continues, farmers will sell the agriculture land and look for jobs in cities. The price we get for the produce does not cover the cost of production,” he said.
Similarly in the Hassan constituency, unemployment and drinking water problem have become major poll issues. “Youth are getting educated from here but not getting jobs. They have to migrate to Bengaluru for jobs, where with meagre salary they cannot afford a living. There are no industries here,” BJP candidate from Hassan constituency Pritam Gowda claimed.
On the drinking water crisis, he said there is “lack of willingness” from incumbent JD(S) MLA HS Prakash to ensure people get smooth supply of water. “Hemavathi river is just 15 kms away. They have taken water from this river to places like Tiptur, Tumkur and Arsikere through Hassan. Hassan people are not getting drinking water,” he said.
The BJP candidate, who is contesting polls for the first time, said, “Deve Gowda has done good things but not good enough.
“Defending the development work undertaken by the JD(S), the party candidate and sitting MLA HS Prakash blamed both UPA and NDA government for not releasing funds for addressing the drinking water problem. “Now, Rs 117 crore has been sanctioned under the clean water programme ‘Amruta’. Pipelines have been laid till Hassan. If the work gets completed in the next six months, there will be water supply for 24X7,” he said.
Prakash further said that the JD(S) supremo was prime minister for 11 months and as chief minister of the state for 16 months. “He has done enough work. People feel that development can happen only under JD(S).”