Bengaluru, March 13, 2015: Karnataka CM Mr Siddaramaiah began his Budget speech on Friday by invoking social justice, and that gave a good indication of the numbers to come.
The first line of his speech said: “Even in the midst of changed political events in the country, there is no change in actions, words and priorities of my government, which is committed to the principles of social justice, secularism and communal harmony.”
His Budget for 2015-16 kept the focus on agriculture, rural development and social welfare covering the backward classes, minorities, women and children.
In the 1,42,534-crore Budget, Ahinda (a Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits) walked away with 16,350 crore in sectoral allocations, apart from 16,356 crore provided exclusively for the welfare of SC/ST people under the Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan and Scheduled Tribes Sub-plan.
Farm and allied sectors, including water resources, got an allocation of 21,287 crore. This excludes 2,120 crore the government is giving the Food and Civil Supplies Department, which manages Siddaramaiah's pet Anna Bhagya scheme. He has liberalised the scheme while keeping costs in check by rationalising it. “Five kg of foodgrains for each member of the BPL and AAY family will be provided free of cost without any cap,’’ Siddaramaiah announced. BPL stands for below poverty line, and AAY for Antoydaya Anna Yojana.
He has also tried to please APL families, announcing rice for them at 15 a kilo and wheat at 10 a kilo.
Mr Siddaramaiah has been magnanimous towards the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. He has made a substantial increase in financial assistance for students and others from these communities.
For example, the financial assistance for an SC girl who marries outside her community has gone up from 1 lakh to 3 lakh, and for a boy from 50,000 to 2 lakh.
Similarly, the incentive for SC/ST students who pass second PUC in first class in the first attempt is now 20,000, up from a meagre 750.
For his political adversaries, these might look like efforts to blunt the cry for a Dalit CM. But Siddaramaiah defended himself, saying the decision was in line with a new Act that makes it mandatory to allocate funds proportionate to the population of SC/STs in the state, which is at 24.1 per cent. He also continued short-term farm loans at zero per cent interest, besides announcing the setting up of a vision group for the development of farm and allied sectors
Interestingly, Mr Siddaramaiah, who is often called an atheist, has announced a mega scheme for the development of big temples of the state.
He proposes to spend 400 crore in the next two years on the development of the Kollur Mookambika temple, Kukke Subramanya temple and Chamundeshwari temple. Other temples to be developed are Srikanteshwara temple in Nanjangud, Dattatreya temple in Ganagapur and Savadatti Yellamma temple.
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are aggressively wooing industries from Karnataka, and Siddaramaiah was expected to announce some industry-friendly measures. But that has not happened. Similarly, Siddaramaiah’s continued neglect of infrastructure for cities has baffled many. Except for the `5,000 crore he has announced for Bengaluru and `100 crore each for Hubballi-Dharwad and Belagavi corporations and `Rs 50 crore for Kalaburagi, he has made no big allocations for any other city.
“There are no specific programmes for inviting large industries to set up shop in the state. Similar is the case with infrastructure development,” rued Prakash Kadalur, chairman, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Hubballi Division.