The centerpiece of the Congress party’s election campaign in Karnataka is the good governance it claims the Siddaramaiah government has provided in the last five years, and the party has come to call it the ‘Karnataka model of development’, with its highlight being the several ‘Bhagya’ social welfare schemes.
From December 23, 2017 to January 17, 2018, the Centre for Public Policy of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, held 12 seminars to interact with stakeholders to discuss steps taken by the Siddaramaiah government in governance, education, health, urban-rural development and other sectors.
Participants included bureaucrats, sectoral experts, representatives from academia and private industry, as also activists. The IIM-B later released a ‘Karnataka innovation report’.
This report has become the basis for the Congress party’s election narrative, particularly to distinguish the ‘Karnataka model of development’ from the ‘Gujarat model of development’.
The Congress party’s manifesto for the Gujarat assembly polls in December was a critique of the ‘Gujarat model of development’, and its manifesto for Karnataka, to be released soon, will present the Congress vision of “inclusive growth and social mobility”.
The Congress party’s Gujarat manifesto had criticised the ‘Gujarat model of development’ for its “focus on big factories, big projects, foreign direct investment (FDI)” and its “top down approach”.
It had said this development model ignored the people of Gujarat – farmers, women, small and medium enterprises, students and traders. The Congress manifesto had spoken of the need to have a “bottom up approach” to policy making.
The IIM-B report has tried to collate the Siddaramaiah government’s decisions of the last five years, including its ‘bottom-up approach’.
Karnataka’s IT-BT sector earns $50-billion in revenue. Karnataka houses 400 biotech companies, 60 per cent of biotech companies in India.
The Congress government has proposed several Information Technology and Biotechnology projects to be complete in the next couple of years.
Recently, it launched the ‘Elevate 100’ programme, which selected 111 start-ups from 1,400 that had applied to receive government grants.
To bridge the digital divide, the state government has covered 6,000 gram panchayats with broadband facility, and give access to free Wi-Fi. It plans to cover all soon.
Under ‘Surya Raitha’ scheme, farmers can install solar-powered irrigation pump sets with 90 percent subsidy from the government. Excess power can be sold to the government.
The state government has leased 13,000 acres of land from farmers for 28-years to develop a solar park in Tumkuru district. These farmers receive lease charges of Rs 21,000 per acre per year with 5 per cent escalation every two years on the base. The park is expected to generate 4,000 jobs for the local youth and 2,700 MW of solar power by end-2018, of which it has already started generating 500 MW, the report states.
The government has set up 132 Indira canteens in Bengaluru to provide subsidized food to all. The report said 20 million meals have been supplied until 2017-end.
‘Mathru Poorna’ scheme provides one nutritious meal daily for 25-days a month to 1.2 million pregnant and lactating women across the state.
‘Ksheera Bhagya’ provides 200 ml milk to children between six months and six years for five days a week.
‘Motte Bhagya’ scheme provides eggs to all children in the state twice a week, and five days a week to underweight children.
The state government has strengthened existing and launched new healthcare schemes under ‘Arogya Bhagya’ schemes.
Udaan, a public-private-partnership, or PPP, programme with Narayana Health, helps meritorious students from marginalised rural families to pursue a degree in medicine. In 2016-17, 56 students were selected for this long-term programme with a nine-year tenure.
In 2015, the Siddaramaiah government modified the Karnataka Panchayati Raj Act for greater devolution of power, functions, finances and functionaries to panchayati raj institutions (PRIs).
It empowered PRIs to adopt a ‘bottom-up’ approach to plan and identity the needs for implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and Swachh Bharat Mission.
Fifty per cent of seats were reserved for women. It also created grievance redressal authorities in all zilla panchayats, with a stipulated time frame for action. Voting was made compulsory for Panchayat Raj elections.
Around Rs 350 billion of produce is transacted in Karnataka’s agriculture markets, or APMCs. To ensure improved incomes for farmers, the state government, along with NCDEX eMarkets, established a joint venture called Rashtriya eMarket Services (ReMS).
The report claims 158 of the 162 main markets in the state are connected to this e-market and 4.8 million farmers registered. It quotes a NITI Aayog report to state that Karnataka realized 38 per cent more income to farmers in 2015- 2016 over 2013-2014.
‘Krishi Yantra Dhare’, a scheme launched by the state government provides high-tech farm machinery and equipment on custom hire service basis to small and marginal farmers at rentals 30 per cent lower than existing market rates.
Water and irrigation
A mere 36 per cent of total land under cultivation in Karnataka has access to irrigation. ‘Krishi Bhagya’ scheme of the state government has tried to make water available during critical stages of crop growth and conserve rainwater. About 160,000 ‘krishi hondas’ or farm ponds have been created.
The government has launched the ambitious Koramangala and Challaghatta valley (KC Valley) waste-water treatment plants. These are located close to Bellandur and Varthur Lakes, large lakes in Bengaluru now fully contaminated with untreated waste-water. This treated waste-water can have agriculture reuse, and could also be pumped to drought-prone districts of Kolar and Chikballapur.
The state government set up the Bangalore Ambedkar School of Economics, patterned on the London School of Economics, which has 30 per cent reserved for SC/ST and OBC students.