Karnataka Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Minister Umesh Katti on Wednesday faced a barrage of criticism for verbally abusing a farmer and asking him to “go die”. An audio clip of Katti answering a farmer’s questions went viral on social media.

“Sir, now you made it 2 kg rice [in public distribution system from 5 kg],” the farmer said in Kannada, according to NDTV. “How will it be sufficient for us?”. When Katti said that the state government was also providing 3 kg of raagi, the farmer said it was not available in north Karnataka. To this, the minister said that the government was distributing jowar and rice there.

When the farmer questioned if the quantity will be sufficient for them since there were strict restrictions in place in the state and many had lost their livelihood, the minister said that the Centre has promised more supplies in the next two months. The farmer then asked how would they manage till the Centre’s allotment reached them.

“Till then, should we starve or die?” the farmer asked. The minister replied: “It is better to die. Actually, that is the reason we have stopped giving. Please don’t call me.”

In a media briefing, the Karnataka minister attempted to clarify that no one should ask such a question because it was not appropriate, reported News18. However, when a few journalists pointed out that he could have instead reassured the farmer, the minister said: “I do not have such a big heart...I am a small-hearted person.”

Katti also said that Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had given him the portfolio and that it was his “sacred responsibility”. “I believe we are giving more rice than is necessary,” he said, according to The Hindu. “I am concerned about the sale of rice by some of the beneficiaries in the market, as they don’t use it. We want to curb such practices. That is why we are providing local foodgrains to the people in different regions.”

Katti also refuted reports that there were reductions in the allotment for the month of April.

Following the controversy, Yediyurappa expressed regret and said it was “not right for a minister to make such a statement”, reported Deccan Herald.

Meanwhile, Opposition parties have hit out at the state minister.

“BJP Minister Umesh Katti has abused a citizen and asked him to ‘go die’ just because he asked him why Karnataka government has cut rice under PDS to just 2 kgs!,” tweeted Congress’ Karnataka unit chief DK Shivakumar. “CM Yediyurappa must immediately throw him out of the Cabinet for this most insensitive statement. Does this government have any shame?”

Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy also called for Katti’s removal from the Cabinet. “The minister’s statement is arrogant and inhuman,” he tweeted in Kannada. “When a minister does not have empathy for people, I urge the chief minister to throw him out of the Cabinet.”