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Siddu takes oath, rolls out sops worth Rs 4,409 crore

Bangalore, May 13, 2013, DHNS:

Announces rice to BPL families at Re 1/kg; loans to SCs/STs waived

 Congress party leader and new Chief Minister of Karnataka K. Siddaramaiah waves to his supporters during his oath-taking ceremony at the Kanteerva Stadium in Bangalore,  Monday, May 13, 2013. Siddaramaiah, 64, administered the oath of office Monday in front of thousands of supporters marking the return of the administration back to the hands of Congress, in the state, after more than 7 years. AP Photo

Siddaramaiah began his innings as chief minister on Monday by announcing a number of populist schemes, including providing rice at Re 1 per kg to BPL families, enhancing incentives being given to dairy farmers from Rs 2 per litre to Rs 4 and complete waiver of loans to SCs, STs, backward classes and minorities.

The implementation of these schemes will cost the State exchequer an additional  Rs 4,409 crore per annum. 

Except for rice at Re 1 per kg which will be implemented from June 1, 2013, all schemes will come into effect immediately. He made the announcements soon after taking oath as the 22nd chief minister. The event, organised to coincide with “Akshayatadige,” considered auspicious according to Hindu calendar, was witnessed by a large number of supporters who had come from across the State.

Many senior Congress leaders from the State and the Centre attended the ceremony. Siddaramaiah’s decisions took the State Congress leadership by surprise as all these decisions were taken by him without any discussion. Soon after taking oath at Sri Kanteerava Stadium, Siddaramaiah came down to Vidhana Soudha, offered pooja at the chief minister’s office on the third floor and held the first meeting with officers, including Chief Secretary S V Ranganath. Later he briefed the media about the decisions.

While a section of partymen called him “the man in a hurry,” others saw it as an intelligent move aimed at preparing the party for the coming Lok Sabha poll. He had held no prior meetings with any of the senior Congress leaders, including KPCC president G Parameshwara. Sources in the party said the chief minister should have reflected the collective decision of the cabinet, which is yet to be expanded. The populist schemes are estimated to benefit 1.38 crore people, who are mainly farmers, SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities,  considered Congress vote bank. All these schemes were part of the party election manifesto.

However, Siddaramaiah, who has the credit of presenting seven State budgets, did not clearly spell out how he was planning to mobilise the resources to implement these schemes. Though he stated that the State finances were in a bad condition, he expressed confidence that money could be raised through plugging the leakage, preventing wasteful expenditure, better collection of tax and doing away with schemes introduced by the previous government for the sake of publicity. He added the government would present the bugdet soon.

The BJP government had announced to provide rice to BPL families at Rs 2 per kg. Now, the new Congress government is not only offering rice at Re 1 per kg but increased the quantity to each family from 20 kg per month to 30 kg. This step alone is estimated to cause additional burden of Rs 460 crore on the exchequer.

The major burden is from loan waiver schemes, which together will cost Rs 1,225 crore to the exchequer. All kinds of loans availed by SCs, STs, backward classes and minorities from government departments and corporations like Ambedkar Development Corporation, Backward Classes Development department and Minorities Welfare department under various schemes will be waived off. Besides, pending dues of farmers amounting to Rs 268 crore, under the Bhagya Jyoti scheme, will be written off.

Another important step taken by the new chief minister was enhancing the subsidy amount for housing schemes meant for the poor from Rs 75,000 per unit to Rs 1.20 lakh. This will cost the exchequer Rs 1,960 crore.

“All assurances made in the Congress manifesto will be implemented in four years. This schemes are part of the first installment. My government’s priorities are social equality and overall development of the State. All programmes will be chalked out based on these principles,” he stated.

Asked about the party’s promise to set up a special court to trial those who were involved in illegal mining, he said everything “has to be done within the legal framework. The decision in this regard will be taken after consulting the law department and the advocate general.”


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