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: Facing assembly polls in a year, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah today proposed a slew of freebies and subsidies, including "Namma Canteens" a la Tamil Nadu's "Amma canteens" and many other endearing steps in his budget.
Besides seeking to set up subsidised food canteens, the Karnataka 2017-18 budget proposed to provide up to seven kg of free food grains per poor person and give 100 percent preference to Kannadigas in certain private sector jobs.
Taking the cue from the popular "Amma canteens" of Tamil Nadu, introduced by late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, Siddaramaiah proposed to launch "Namma Canteens" in Bengaluru, where breakfast would be provided at Rs five and lunch and dinner at Rs 10.
This is the last "full term" budget presented by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government before going to polls in early 2018, in which it is expected to face the BJP's fierce bid to stage a comeback to power that it lost in 2013.
Siddaramaiah also holds the finance portfolio and it was his 12th budget as finance minister and the fifth as CM.
He had earlier served as finance minister under the ministries headed by H D Deve Gowda and late J H Patel.
The 2017-18 budget presented in the assembly does not propose any major change in the tax rate structure, apparently due to the expected roll out of the GST from July 1 this year.
"Namma Canteen, a novel programme will be started to supply breakfast, lunch and dinner to the common man at affordable prices," Siddaramaiah said.
He said one canteen of subsidised foods will be opened in each of the 198 wards of Greater Bengaluru limits and allotted Rs 100 crore for the scheme.
"On demand from the people, food grains being distributed under Annabhagya scheme will be increased from five kg to seven kg per person," he said.
He said 20 lakh poor families have already been brought under 'Annabhagya' scheme through Public Distribution System which was announced by Siddaramaiah after assuming power with an intention to free the state from hunger.
To encourage higher education, the government proposed that free laptops will be supplied to students getting admission in 2017-18 to engineering,medical, polytechnic and first grade colleges.
Around 1.5 lakh students will be benefited fromthis.
In a move being considered as "linguistic appeasement," the budget states that government will take steps to ensure 100 per cent preference in employment of Group C & D jobs to Kannadigas and five per cent for differently-abled in the private sector.
Amidst growing demand for and expectations of crop loan waiver as the state is reeling under consecutive years of drought, Siddaramaiah did not make any announcement on this. Instead,he decided to continue the scheme of disbursing short-term agriculture loans upto Rs three lakh at zeroper cent interest rate and medium term and long termagriculture loans upto Rs 10 lakh at three per cent interest rate. A target has been fixed to disburse Rs 13,500 crore of agriculture loans to 25 lakh farmers. Siddaramaiah flayed the Modi government's demonetisation move, saying it had caused "great" distress to people and hit the state's revenues from stamps and registration, causing a shortfall of Rs 1,350 crore during 2016-17. Questioning the very need for demonetisation, he said the government had not yet disclosed the outcome of its step. The banks were simply not geared up for this major decision and the manner of implementation exposed the union government's lack of preparedness, he said.
(REOPEN MES6) Pointing out that there are 17 declared slabs of Additional Excise Duty, Siddaramaiah said that as a measure of rationalisation, it is proposed to increase AdditionalExcise Duty on two slabs by six per cent and on the remaining 15 slabs by 10 per cent and 16 per cent. He said in view of these changes, VAT on liquor,including beer, fenny, liqueur and wine will be removed with effect from April 1, 2017. Noting that there was a demand by government employees for pay revision, Siddaramaiah announced that a pay commission would be formed to examine it. Considering the geographical and administrative necessities, the government proposed creation of 49 new taluks during the year to fulfil the long pending demands, he said. A project "E-Vidhana Mandala" to bring in paperless legislative proceedings at a cost of Rs 60.84 crore is proposed and Rs 20 crore will be provided in 2017-18 towards initial activities. Siddaramaiah said that with an intention to reduce air and noise pollution in Bengaluru, it is proposed to ban two stroke autorickshaws with effect from April 1, 2018 and replace them with 10,000 four stroke LPG auto rickshaws, for which Rs 30 crore would be provided as subsidy at Rs 30,000 per vehicle. State government proposed to add 3975 MW capacityduring 2017-18, including 1600 MW from Yaramaras project, 1000 MW from Solar Energy Park of Pavagada and 1375 MW from renewable energy sources. Under Bhagya Jyothi Scheme, electricity being given free of cost will be increased from 18 to 40units, the chief Minister said, adding that five villages in each MLA constituency will be converted into Model Electricity Villages by taking steps for the efficient usage of electricity.