The Karnataka government on Wednesday announced a Rs 1,610 crore relief package for the benefit of those in distress due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown, and hiked excise duty on liquor by 11 per cent to mop up revenues.
The measures announced by the Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa include compensation of Rs 5,000 each to thousands of washermen, barbers, auto rickshaw and taxi drivers, whose daily life has been affected.
It would also provide relief to farmers, flower-growers, MSMEs, large industries, weavers, and building workers. The government has also hiked excise duty by 11 percent, which is in addition to the 6 per cent that was announced in the budget, he said.
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People from all sections of society are facing financial difficulties due to lockdown of more than one and a half months… the easing of lockdown does not mean it has ended. No one one should misuse relaxation, and cooperate in improving financial condition of the state,” the Chief Minister said. Noting that despite financial condition of the state not so good, it was the duty of the government to come to the rescue of people in distress, he said a Rs 1,610 crore relief package is being announced, and no state has announced such a big package at such a situation.
“With in a week we will transfer the amount to accounts (of beneficiaries). We have stopped all development activities and doing this on priority for the welfare of those in distress, despite financial limitation,” he added.
Flower growers have destroyed their flowers following lack of demand for their produce due to the lockdown. It is estimated that farmers cultivated flowers in about 11,687 hectares. Realising the problems facing flower growers, the government announced compensation of Rs 25,000 per hectare limited to a maximum extent of one hectare for the crop loss.
Farmers who have grown vegetables and fruits were unable to market their produce, and the government has decided to announce a relief package for them soon. COVID-19 has also affected service professionals such as barbers and washermen (dhobis) both in urban and rural areas, and it has been decided to provide a one time compensation of Rs 5,000 each to benefit about 60,000 washermen and about 2.30 lakh barbers.
It has been resolved to help about 7.75 lakh Auto and Taxi drivers by providing a one time compensation of Rs 5,000 each. MSMEs have also suffered huge production losses due to the lockdown. It takes some time for them to revive, Yediyurappa said.
The monthly fixed charges of electricity bills of MSMEs will be waived for two months. Payment of fixed charges in the electricity bills of the large industries will be deferred without penalty and interest for a period of two months.
The Chief Minister also announced certain benefits for electricity consumers of all categories. Already a Rs 109 crore weavers’ loan waiver scheme was announced, of which Rs 29 crore has been released during 2019 -20. The balance amount of Rs 80 crore would be released immediately. This would help weavers get fresh loans to continue their occupation.
The Chief Minister also announced a new scheme, Weaver Samman Yojana (Nekarara Sammana yojane) for the benefit of the suffering weavers. Under this scheme, government would deposit Rs 2,000 directly into the bank account of the handloom weaver through DBT. This would benefit about 54,000 handloom weavers in the state. There are 15.80 lakh registered building workers in the state and the government has transferred Rs 2,000 to the bank account of 11.80 lakh of them through DBT.
Action has already been initiated to transfer Rs 2,000 to the accounts of the remaining four lakh construction workers soon after verifying beneficiaries bank account details. In addition to this, an amount of Rs 3,000 would be deposited into their accounts through DBT. Further, more than 1 lakh migrant labourers who wished to go back to their native states, Yediyurappa appealed to them to stay back, as construction and industrial activities have begun.
COVID-19 has not yet been eradicated, but it is inevitable that both efforts for controlling the spread of virus and economic activities for the development of the state have to go hand in hand, he noted. “However, we have been able to control spread of COVID-19 and will have to take precautions in the future also,” he added.