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Who?ll fund freebies?

After all the promises, time to deliver. Riding an impressive victory wave, Chief Minister designate M Karunanidhi has to now don Santa Claus's hat.

india Updated: May 13, 2006 01:36 IST
GC Shekhar

After all the promises, time to deliver. Riding an impressive victory wave, Chief Minister designate M Karunanidhi has to now don Santa Claus's hat. But will the moolah flow in easy? This is how the DMK chief will have to work it out.

He will first have to take a hard look at the revenue-yielding channels - liquor sales, sand quarrying, sales tax and land and house registration - before finalising the order in which the promises need to be implemented. The excise loss from Midas Distilleries, owned by Sasikala's relatives, could be a targeted cash cow.

The Rs 2 per kg rice scheme will be easier to implement. He has already announced that it would be his first official order. It would add another Rs 460 crore to the present food subsidy of Rs 1,500 crore per year. Karunanidhi had declared that this could be easily absorbed.

The tougher promise would be the free colour television. Karunanidhi had already let known that initially only those families below the poverty line would be covered. He had fixed their number at 54 lakhs and the tentative price of a colour TV at Rs 2,000 when purchased in bulk. Multiply that and the total amount works out to a whopping Rs 1,080 crore.

Officials point out that the modalities of this scheme would be explained in the full budget to be presented later this month.

 

 

"There is no need to implement this scheme in the first year itself and it can be staggered through the coming years to reduce the financial strain," said a senior IAS officer.

Then comes writing off co-operative loans. This would involve an one-time expenditure of Rs 500 crore. For this Karunanidhi would need to leverage his clout at the Centre in case he expects NABARD to cushion the loss. It is probably with this in mind that the shrewd DMK veteran sounded out Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a joint election rally that he expected the Union government to chip in to help him implement his promises.

"The PM is in a position to grant us the boon so that we can make good all our promises," he had said. Also with Finance Minister P. Chidambaram endorsing the DMK manifesto and its freebies as feasible, Karunanidhi would definitely expect some help from the Centre especially with budget deficit expected to cross the Rs.1,500 crore mark.