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Karnataka budget 2018: Siddaramaiah focuses on farmers, students

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah also announced a state budgetary allocation of Rs 6,645 crore for the health and family welfare department to implement a universal health scheme.

india Updated: Feb 16, 2018 22:45 IST
Press Trust of India, Bengaluru
Karnataka budget,Siddaramaiah,LPG gas
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah arrives at Vidhana Soudha to present the state budget in Bengaluru on Friday. (PTI)

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah on Friday announced a slew of schemes targeting farmers, women and students as he wooed cross-section of voters ahead of the assembly polls slated for May.

Siddaramaiah, who also holds the finance portfolio, even used a catch phrase of his political rival, BJP, to drive home his message to the voters ahead of the polls, which many believe could throw up a huge challenge to the ruling Congress.

“This is the real meaning of inclusiveness. This is sabka saath, sabka vikas (development for all and with all),” the chief minister told the media, using a slogan popularised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“This is not an election budget, this is a sensible budget,” Siddaramaiah said. “It is prudent keeping in mind the fact that we will be voted back to power and will have to implement it.”

The chief minister gave the biggest largesse to farmers in his budget for 2018-19, in a new scheme for dry-land farmers called the ‘Raitha Belaku’, under which seven million farmers will get Rs 5,000 per hectare through direct bank transfer.

The amount will be capped at Rs 10,000 per person, he said adding that Karnataka has the second highest proportion of dry land, lower only to Rajasthan. The agriculture sector allocation was increased from Rs 5,080 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 5,849 this time around.

The chief minister said girl students studying in government colleges would be exempt from paying fees from the pre-university to the post-graduation level.

Siddaramaiah also announced the roll-out of an universal health coverage scheme, called Aarogya Karnataka, although he said the modalities of the scheme would be announced in due course. An amount of Rs 1,500 crore has been set aside for this.

Under another scheme, the Mukhyamantri Anila Bhagya Yojana, the government will provide free LPG connections with twin burner stoves and two refills to three million beneficiaries, with an outlay of Rs 1,350 crore.

The chief minister also proposed to launch a Basava Study Centre at the University of Mysore with a grant of Rs 2 crore. The scheme is a nod to the Lingayat sect, which was founded by 12th century philosopher Basavanna.

There was also an increase in grants given for inter-caste marriages in the budget.

“For eradication of untouchability, incentive amount will be increased from existing Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh for a scheduled caste boy marrying a girl from another caste and from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for a scheduled caste girl marrying a boy from another caste. In the same model, incentive of Rs 5 lakh and Rs 3 lakh will be given for the marriage of female and male children of Devadasis.”

The chief minister said the state’s GSDP had grown at 8.5%, as opposed to 7.5% in the previous year.

“We have also maintained fiscal discipline as the deficit was 2.54%, and we have projected it at 2.49% in the coming financial year, much below the 3% mandated by the Karnataka Fiscal Responsibility Act.”

Siddaramaiah said that the state’s liabilities were within the limit prescribed by law of 25%, and criticised opposition parties for allegedly trying to mislead the people. “In 2018-19, we project liabilities to be 20.36%,” he said.

The chief minister also did not waste the opportunity to throw barbs at the central government in his budget speech.

“Demonetisation hit both the supply as well as the demand side, leading to an overall slowdown in the economy. This has impacted not only the economy but also the State Finances. Revenues from all taxes, especially stamp duty and registration fee, were adversely impacted due to demonetisation,” he said.

For the first time, the budget crossed the Rs 2 lakh crore mark in Karnataka. This was Siddaramaiah’s 13th budget, the most by any finance minister of the state.

The state BJP president BS Yeddyurappa criticised the budget for aiming to appease various sections of society. “Now that elections are scheduled to be held in about two months, there is a big question mark over implementation,” he said.

Yeddyurappa said various departments of the government had failed to utilise even 50% of the allocated amount in 2017-18. “Now by announcing new schemes the chief minister has again proved that these slogans will remain slogans,” he added.

Narendar Pani, a political analyst and a faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, said the budget was along expected lines.

“It definitely reads like a manifesto,” he said, adding that it was clearly an election-oriented budget.

Pani said Siddaramaiah’s strength was his conscious decision to try and reach schemes beyond his vote base.

“There is definitely an election-based strategy with the emphasis on dry-land agriculture and in attempting to move industry beyond Bengaluru,” he said.

First Published: Feb 16, 2018 17:19 IST