Bengaluru: The BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government in Karnataka presented its first budget for the state on Thursday, increasing taxes for two major heads amid a gloom of taking a huge cut in revenues and fund devolution from the Centre.
Central allocation of tax funds as Karnataka's share is projected to go down by a whopping Rs 11,215 crore, a big hit for the state, as per the 15th Finance Commission.
With the Opposition demanding why the BJP MPs from the state are not taking this up with their central high command, Yediyurappa told reporters after presenting his budget that a delegation would submit a memorandum to the Centre in a week to set right the loss caused to the southern state.
“Within the limitations that we have in resources, I have tried to address to the best of ability my priorities to agriculture, water resources, SC/ ST development and women's empowerment,” said Yediyurappa.
Earlier, while tabling his budget in the Assembly, the CM said that due to reduction in state's share of Central taxes and other developments, serious difficulties are being faced in resource-mobilisation efforts of the government. “The magnitude of economic difficulties was never faced in previous years," he added.
Considering that 25 of the 28 MPs from Karnataka are from the BJP, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah hit out at the saffron camp stating that its parliamentarians have been weak in taking up the state's cause at the national level.
“Karnataka is the second state in the country in tax collection. But it is being dealt with unfairly. Nobody has the guts to go and talk to the Centre,” the senior Congress leader said.
With the government proposing a 3% increase in taxes on fuel, citizens would soon have to pay Rs 1.60 more per litre on petrol, while diesel would cost Rs 1.59 more. The government also imposed a 6% increase in additional excise duty on Indian-made liquor across all 18 slabs.
However, what got citizens talking was the proposal in the budget to build two bronze statues — a 325-ft tall statue of Lingayat saint Basaveshwara in Chitradurga district and a 100-feet tall statue of Kempegowda, the founder of Bengaluru, near the Bengaluru airport.
Considering the cutbacks that the budget has seen, this announcement came as a rude surprise to many.
Congress leader and former deputy CM G Parameshwara said the present dispensation prioritised statues of Basavanna and Kempegowda over people's welfare.
"When the CM himself has admitted that we are facing unprecedented financial stress, what is the need for statues? Both Kempegowda and Basavanna will be happy if that money is used for people's welfare," he wrote on Twitter.
The government has also said that every legislator would have to adopt and develop three government schools in their constituencies under the MLA-Local Area Development funds.
Besides, English will be introduced as a medium in 400 government Urdu medium schools. This comes a year after an experiment initiated by the previous HD Kumaraswamy government to introduce English medium in 1,000 Kannada medium schools on a pilot basis.
Funds worth Rs 1 crore have been allocated for the Urdu schools — about Rs 25,000 for each school for the entire year. Hitting out at the government for making such a meagre allocation, less, the opposition camp said nothing has been done for the development of minorities in the state.
The government also announced the launch of a survey of the transgender community throughout the state.
Funds for Bengaluru amounted to about Rs 8,344 crore. Of this, Rs 999 crore is for solid waste management, about Rs 1,300 crore for either lake development or sewage treatment plants around lakes.
An amount of Rs 500 crore was earmarked for a suburban railway network that has been in the works for nearly a decade and is yet to take off. There is also a proposal to introduce electric bike taxis for last-mile connectivity in the metropolis, though the mode of transport is yet to be deemed legal in the city.
Extension of the metro lines, a waste-to-energy power generation centre at a cost of Rs 210 crore and the promise to spend Rs 500 crore on restoring roads that have been dug up for laying of water pipelines are among other announcements for the city. Meanwhile, funds for the SC/ST programmes have been cut by Rs 4,000 crore.
"There is not a single new scheme or programme the government has announced. It is silent on farm loan waivers, unclear on projects like 'Indira canteens’ that provide subsidised food and 'Anna Bhagya' that gives 7-kg ration free of cost to families belonging to the BPL category,” Siddaramaiah said.
“The budget is not pro-farmer, pro-minority, pro-poor or pro-development. When Yediyurappa became the CM, he had said the face of Bengaluru will change in six months. It is seven months since he took over and there is no visible change," the former CM told reporters.