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Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah arrives at Vidhana Soudha to present the state budget in Bengaluru on Friday. Photo: PTI
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah arrives at Vidhana Soudha to present the state budget in Bengaluru on Friday. Photo: PTI

Siddaramaiah presents 2.1 lakh crore Karnataka budget

The state's Congress government increased outlays in key sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, benefits to women, backward classes development, farmer welfare,irrigation among other areas

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, who also holds the finance portfolio, on Friday presented his 13th and his government’s last budget ahead of assembly polls which has a total outlay of more than 2.09 lakh crore ( 2.09 trillion).

The state’s Congress government increased outlays in key sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, benefits to women, backward classes development, farmer welfare,irrigation among other areas.

The budget for fiscal 2018-19 represents an increase of more than 12% compared with last year which had a total outlay of 1,86,561 crore.

The government said the budget was not drafted with polls in mind. “It is not an election budget, it is a regular budget," Siddaramaiah said, addressing a press conference, after his over four-hour-long budget speech. He said the budget was drawn keeping in mind that the Congress would return to power in the state.

Invoking 12th century reformer Basavanna and Dr B.R.Ambedkar, Siddaramaiah said his budget transcended religion, caste and region to cater to the needs of the common man.

The state government has been mooting the Nava Karnataka (building new Karnataka) campaign for imparting skills and training to young people to boost employability. Siddaramaiah has used this to challenge the Gujarat model of development promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After the 8165 crore farm loan waiver, Siddaramaiah backed his farmer focused initiatives with the launch of “Raitha Belaku" a scheme to give assistance to dryland farmers. “Under this scheme during the year 2018-19, 5000 per hectare subject to maximum of 10000 for each farmer will be given to each farmers growing rainfed crops," he said, while detailing that the outlay would be 3500 crore impacting 70 lakh farmers.

At least 65% of Karnataka has rainfed areas. “This is an income support scheme," he said.

He also said multiple major, minor, lift and drip irrigation projects to help improve agrarian activity in the state that stands at around 4.9%.

Outlay for agriculture has been increased to 5849 crore from 5080 crore last year, while allocation to the cooperation department has been raised from 1663 crore to 5837 crore this fiscal.

Siddaramaiah also used the budget to compare his five years in office with that of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during its years in office from 2008-13. Siddaramaiah continued his populist push in healthcare with the announcement for the launch of “Arogya Karnataka" or universal health care with an allocation of over 1500 crore.

A sum of 1350 crore to provide free gas connections with twin burner stoves to 30 lakh beneficiaries is part of at least 20 other schemes aimed at women.

Keeping in line with the Nava Karnataka Nirmana campaign, the budget includes a scheme to issue free passes to all 19.60 lakh students in the state who travel long distances to reach schools and colleges. Girls studying upwards of class 12 till post graduation at government institutions will now be free.

However, additional allocations for populist measures have seen the state’s liabilities bloat from 2.42 lakh crore// 2.42 trillion// to 2.86 lakh crore // 2.86 trillion//, increasing the share of debt to GSDP from 18.93% to 20.36%. “We have to take loans for development and also for creation of assets," he said. Fiscal deficit is expected to be at 35127 crore or 2.49%, lower than the 3.3% target set by the centre earlier this month.

“It is a please all budget," Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and professor at the Karnatak University, Dharwad said. He said Siddaramaiah had, in his previous budgets, ensured that his support base among other sections was well covered.

“He knows that OBC is satisfied. The only way they will have to mobilise the OBC is to impress upon them that the implementation part is going on well," Ramaswamy said. On the sops given to farmers, Ramaswamy said this was to quell the criticism against Siddaramaiah of not having done enough for the community in the run up-to the elections.

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