With his focus firmly on the impending Lok Sabha polls, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah Friday directed the major portion of his Rs 1,38,008 crore state budget for social justice and benefit of the core vote base of the Congress — comprising Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward castes and minorities.
Tax measures in the budget were restricted to a new 5.5 per cent levy on drinking at bars and increase in VAT on bottled beer. “The tax measures are not intended to affect ordinary people or the poor in the state,” the chief minister said.
Siddaramaiah announced a whopping 84 per cent increase in the outlay for programmes for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities keeping in line with the implementation of the Karnataka Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan and Tribal Sub-Plan (Planning, Allocation and Utilization of Financial Resources) Act, 2013.
“For the first time in the state, on the basis of 2011 census, out of the plan allocation, to be met out of state’s internal resources, 17.15 % and 6.95 % have been reserved for SC and ST category respectively. Rs 15,834 crore has been provided in the 2014-15 budget,’’ Siddaramaiah said.
Karnataka is the second state in the country after Andhra Pradesh to plan budget outlay for SC/ST community in proportion to their population (23.1 per cent), he said.
A total allocation of Rs 1,445 crore for the backward classes, Rs 800 crore for the department of minorities welfare, Haj and Wakf and Rs 125 crore for a Christian Development Scheme for repairs, renovation of churches and other facilities has been made.
As sectors, agriculture, irrigation, education, and energy have received the largest allocations.
The budget has continued a Rs 6,200 crore subsidy for energy used by irrigation pumpsets state and has allocated Rs 500 crore for dryland irrigation projects in the state.
He called the budget “inclusive” and “growth oriented” and claimed it was not an election budget.
The chief minister reported that the state underperformed in terms of revenue collection during the 2013-14 fiscal by failing to match revenue projections made in the budget last year.
There was a Rs 934 crore shortfall in the state’s own revenue collection on account of a dip in revenues from motor vehicle taxes and land registrations although commercial taxes were on target, Siddaramaiah said.
Leader of the opposition Janata Dal Secular H D Kumaraswamy called the budget a failure. “There is no vision for the future of the state. There are no populist measures either,” he said.