Ahead of elections to state legislative assembly early next year, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday doled out freebies and goodies to farmers, students and urban poor in his budget for 2017-18 despite a dip in growth rate. The gross state domestic product (GSDP) is expected to grow at 6.9% in FY17 as against 7.3% during 2015-16. The budget introduced the concept of ‘Namma Canteens’ on the lines of Tamil Nadu’s ‘Amma Canteen’ at a cost of Rs 100 crore in Bengaluru city. The state capped the ticket rates at multiplexes at Rs 200 and decided to remove the value-added tax (VAT) on liquor from April 1, including beer, fenny and wine.
The cause for decline in overall growth rate is attributable to decline in growth rate of industry and service sectors. The industry sector is expected to grow at 2.2% compared to 4.9% during the previous year while the service sector is expected to register a growth of 8.5% during the current year as compared to 10.4% in the previous year. Agriculture sector is estimated to grow by 1.5% owing to severe drought for the last two years.
Presenting his record 12th budget as finance minister and fifth as chief minister, Siddaramaiah announced a farm loan interest waiver of Rs 125 crore, which will benefit 74,525 farmers. The loan waiver comes in the backdrop of severe drought for the last two years, which has affected the agriculture growth. With this waiver, the total amount of farm loan waiver announced by the Congress government over the last four years has gone up to Rs 2,359 crore to 10.7 lakh farmers as against R940 crore waived by the previous BJP-led government.
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Among other populist schemes, the chief minister proposed to give free laptops for students of 1st year engineering, medical, polytechnic and first grade colleges. He also announced opening of 198 ‘Namma Canteens’ on the lines of Tamil Nadu’s ‘Amma Canteen’ at a cost of R100 crore in Bengaluru city. Namma canteens will serve breakfast for R5 and lunch for R10 to urban poor. Like Namma Canteen in Bengaluru, Saviruchi Mobile Canteens in all 30 districts through Zilla Stree Shakthi associations will be set up.
He also announced increase in food grains distribution to 7 kg per person from 5 kg per person under Anna Bhagya scheme across the state. To appease government employees, the chief minister announced implementation of seventh pay commission recommendations. The overall budget size has been fixed at R1.86 lakh crore, which is 14.16% higher than R1.63 lakh crore estimated for 2016-17.