'Recession has thrown up a challenge on the investment front'

D H Shankaramurthy

But in Karnataka, under the able leadership of D H Shankaramurthy, the State Planning Board is reinventing a new path, banking on the Vision 2020 for a paradigm shift in development initiatives. In an exclusive interview with N V Vijayakumar of Deccan Herald, he dwells on the priorities of the Yeddyurappa government for the rest of the term in office.

What is the role of the State Planning Board under growing centralisation of plan activities in the country?
Even though there is growing centralisation of plan activities in the country, we do not find any tug of war with the National Planning Commission since there is consensus on policy fronts among states. But actual differences come in fund allocation. Whenever the state’s request for more funds are not met with due concern, we fight with the Centre.

Can you explain about the Vision 2020 document?
Under the Vision 2020 for development, the board has identified 12 key transformations aimed at affirming its future policy to drive the state’s growth. It aims to achieve inclusive and shared growth in the state. Besides achieving rural prosperity through higher incomes from agriculture and allied activities, the document aims to achieve a sustainable and orderly process of industrialisation and urbanisation. To implement programmes under Vision 2020, we have constituted six mission group for infrastructure development, rural economic development, social empowerment, human development, Karnataka heritage development and decentralisation programme.

How do you view the impact of recession and counter measures taken by Centre/state governments?
Recession hasn’t impacted the state much and our plan size had gone up from Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 29,000 crore. But this year we expect a Rs 6000 to 8000 crore slump in revenue collection. In the fiscal management front, the state government is in good stead. The Central government’s initiative to counter recession hasn’t had its effect on the state.

What are the plans envisaged by the state for resource mobilisation?
We have already taken loans from Asian Development Bank, World Bank, etc. But here the state government will have to follow the RBI norm that it should not exceed 3.4 per cent of the total GDP. If the need arises we will also approach other eminent global lenders.

Besides drought-like natural calamities, new trade treaties have put innumerable hurdles for the farming community. What are the state government’s initiatives in this regard?
Till now we haven’t given our farmers their due in the country. Though the Central government’s farm loan waiver scheme and state government’s initiatives do give succour for the debt-ridden farmers, we have to do much more for them. The Centre has constituted committees to look into drought and flood situation in various parts of the state. The state government is open minded even to constitute a debt relief commission to look into the agrarian crisis.   
How do you view direct funding for farmers, especially the fertiliser subsidy?
If subsidies are given directly to farmers, it will be used for some other activities on which the government will not have any control. It is better to give them subsidised products.

Rising foodgrains prices is a cause for concern. How can we tackle it?
Rising foodgrain prices have made life miserable. But the Centre has a greater role to play in maintaining the supply-demand balance. We have been doing our duty by improving the public distribution system and also curbing black-marketing. We need few more allotments in the foodgrains quota from the Centre.

Attracting investment for infrastructure projects is the need of the hour. Do you have any special initiative in this regard?
Global slowdown has thrown up a challenge on the investment on infrastructure front in the state. Through the forthcoming Karnataka Global Investors meet we hope to bring more investment in energy, roads, airports, ports, etc. It is modelled on the Gujarat initiatives. As part of modernising infrastructure in the hinterland of Karnataka, six new airports will come up in various district headquarters by the end of 2010.

Education being the core of all societies, what is the changes you are visualising?
It is the earnest desire of the state government to bring in a sea change on this front. But whenever we say something about education, people say that it is saffronisation. Introduction of Yoga in schools is only a part of the programme to nurture social conscious among the young. The state government is recognising schools, where there are only 10 students in a class. We need quality teachers, for which the government would implement new policy changes to bring about changes in the salary structure.

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