CM under pressure to offer some succour to drought-hit farmers

Sops for Ahinda, more grain for Anna Bhagya likely in his 12th budget
Last Updated 14 March 2017, 19:50 IST

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah faces the tough task of meeting the farmers’ demand for loan waiver when he presents the state budget proposals for 2017-18 on Wednesday.

Siddaramaiah, who holds the finance portfolio, will present his 12th budget in the Legislative Assembly at 11.30 am on Wednesday. This will be the Congress government’s last full fledged budget before the Assembly polls next year and is largely expected to be a populist one.

Sources close to the chief minister said Siddaramaiah is keen to win over farmers, who form a large chunk of the electorate. But he is constrained to meet their demand. He may announce a waiver of a portion of the loans borrowed from cooperative institutions.

However, the loan waiver comes with a heavy price tag. As many as 23.14 lakh farmers have raised crop loans to the tune of  Rs 10,551.99 crore from cooperative banks. Sources said it will not be practically possible to write off the entire loan amount, but Siddaramaiah may announce a partial loan waiver, thus offering some relief to small and marginal farmers, reeling under severe drought.

When Jagadish Shettar was the chief minister, he had waived farm loans of up to Rs 25,000 costing the exchequer nearly Rs 3,500 crore. This had helped around
16 lakh farmers who were struggling to clear loans due to drought.

In a way, the move will counter the BJP politically as the Centre did not provide any relief to drought-hit farmers in its recent budget.

Siddaramaiah will continue with welfare schemes for Ahinda communities (Kannada acronym of backward classes, Dalits and minorities), as he has done in the previous four budgets. Ahinda is seen as the political constituency of the chief minister.

Increase in the quota of foodgrain provided to BPL families under the state’s government flagship Anna Bhagya scheme is also on the cards.  The total budget outlay for the financial year 2017-18 will inch close to the Rs 2 lakh crore mark. The outlay stood at Rs 1.62 lakh crore for the previous fiscal.

Though demonetisation of high value currency notes has hit resource mobilisation, especially in the stamps and registration department, Siddaramaiah is unlikely to impose any additional taxes on the common man with elections in mind.

Another challenge for Siddaramaiah is to strike a balance between his Ahinda agenda and urban infrastructure projects. It is to be seen what he would offer the capital, which is contributing nearly 60% of the total commercial tax collection in the state.

Special attention may be given for improving Bengaluru’s roads.
DH News Service  

Probable proposals
Marginal loan waiver for farmers
Namma Canteens in major cities to provide subsidised food
More taluks to be carved out
Announcement of 7th Pay Commission for state government employees
Schemes for youth, BPL families and Ahinda communities
Increase in quantum of foodgrain under ‘Anna Bhagya’
Free electricity for below poverty line SC/ST families
To form corporations to help certain communities
To highlight dept-wise performance in the last four years

(Published 14 March 2017, 19:50 IST)

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