At a time when Karnataka is reeling under severe drought-like situation, the state government's contingency plan, it seems, is to leave the matter to god.
34,000 temples across Karnataka are performing special ceremonies today to appease the rain gods for more showers in the state. This after the Endowments Ministry of the Karnataka government ordered that each temple may spend Rs 5000 for these prayers. All temples put together, this will cost Rs 17 crore.
But some temple priests say the special 'homas' prayers might cost more than Rs 5000 as there has been a considerable increase in prices of fruits and fresh flowers due to poor monsoon. And then there are other articles required for the pooja like rice, dry fruits, pure ghee, coconuts and milk.
"Articles for the pooja are too many and too expensive, so Rs 5000 rupees may not be sufficient. We may be spending more. But I do believe this will bring rain and hope in the state," Sundar Deekshitulu, chief priest at Bangalore's Someshwara temple, told NDTV.
The total expenditure of conducting theses special prayers might hence escalate further.
The move has been slammed by desperate farmers in the state who say this huge sum could have been put to better use, specially at a time when the state is staring at its worst drought in 42 years and is seeking more than Rs 2000 crore from the Centre as relief fund.
But the state government maintains that this is being done for the welfare of farmers. "We are doing this for the welfare of the state and for the farmers," said KV Prasad, Executive Officer, Endowments Department.
Among the many states of India now facing drought, Karnataka is one of the worst hit. 123 out of the 176 talukas in the state have been declared drought affected by the government due to 23% rain deficiency so far. Several water reservoirs in the state have turned dry and some others, like the Almatti Dam in north Karnataka and KRS dam in southern Karnataka, have water at an alarmingly low level.
As a result, farmers in several drought-hit regions are migrating to other states in search of work. Many in Chitradurga, Koppal, Gadag, Belgaum and Raichur are forced to sell their cattle as they are unable to provide fodder and water.
Critics say the 17 crore rupees should have been used to compensate these poor farmers, or for trying out some scientific solutions to tackle the drought situation.
"Any rain is good for the farmers. If we need profits, we need rain. We could have tried artificial rain through cloud seeding," said K Shivarudrappa, General Secretary of the Farmers Association of Karnataka.
It could perhaps be a mere coincidence, but there is some good news for the farmers after these prayers - the Meteorological Department has predicted more rains in the driest parts of north and south Karnataka in the coming week.