Presenting his government’s final budget ahead of the assembly polls, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramiah announced a scheme for universal health coverage on the lines of the Union Budget 2018-19. In a bid to woo voters ahead of polls, the government opened the coffers for farmers and youth, announcing a scheme to waive loan of up to Rs one lakh taken by farmers from any primary agricultural credit cooperative society. Siddaramaiah also unveiled ‘Raitha Belaku’, a scheme to provide direct income assistance to relieve dry-land farmers.
The chief minister talked about implementation of the sixth pay commission which recommended 30 per cent hike in the salary structure and an increase in pay. Siddaramiah said the implementation will benefit 5.93 lakh state government employees and 5.73 lakh pensioners and would cost the exchequer Rs 10,508.
In a big push to healthcare, the government announced setting up ‘Arogya Karnataka Yojana’ which will provide universal health coverage, to be implemented across the state by the end of 2018. The scheme will provide primary, secondary and tertiary health treatments to all the people of the state. Under the scheme, over 9,000 health and wellness centres would be set up by upgrading existing sub-centres for every 5,000 people in rural areas during the next seven years. A total budgetary allocation of Rs 6,645 crore was made for the health and family welfare department.
While the government did not introduce any new tax, it proposed to increase the rates of additional excise duty on India-Made Liquor by eight per cent. The government, however, did not talk about tax collection under GST and said, due to implementation problems in the initial months, systematic analysis of data and rigorous enforcement activities could not be undertaken.
On the heels of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme launched by the centre, the government also introduced ‘Mukhyamantri Anila Bhagya Yojana’ to provide a free gas connection with twin burner stove and two refills to 30 lakh beneficiaries with a capital outlay of Rs 1,350 crore.
In a major announcement related to Bengaluru Metro, Siddaramaiah said necessary action would be taken to prepare a detailed project report for 105.55 km line under the Bengaluru Metro Phase-3, which will increase the total length of Bengaluru metro rail, including all phases, to 266 km.
Stressing that his government’s focus is on welfare schemes, the CM said, “Today, there is no situation in the state where any person goes to bed with hunger,” and described his government as “farmer-friendly”. “I am not an expert who has made a scholarly study of economics. There is no knowledge greater than experience,” said Siddaramaiah.