Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy will present the Congress-JD(S) coalition government’s maiden budget for fiscal 2018-19 at the Karnataka Vidhana Soudha on Thursday. The government is expected to waive farm loans borrowed from cooperative and nationalised banks.
“I am bound by the people’s verdict to present the full budget after the May 12 Assembly polls, in which about 100 new legislators were elected and expect me to present programmes and policies of the new government,” IANS quoted Kumaraswamy as saying.
According to the state agriculture department’s estimates, of the 74-lakh farmers across the state, 25 lakh don’t take institutional loans but borrow from private sources, including moneylenders at a high-interest rate and get caught into a debt trap.
To free the distressed farmers from the debt burden, the state government has decided to conduct a survey of agriculture borrowers with details of loans availed from which institutions, including cooperatives, regional and state-run banks.
Expressing confidence that the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka will act on its promise of waiving farm loans in its budget and make the state a “beacon of hope” for farmers in the country, Congress president Rahul Gandhi in a tweet said, “On the eve of the Karnataka Budget, I’m confident our Congress-JDS coalition Government will act on our commitment to waive farmer loans and to make farming more profitable. This budget is an opportunity for our Government to make Karnataka a beacon of hope for farmers all across India.”
The Congress-JD(S) coordination committee constituted to oversee the smooth functioning of the government had on Sunday approved the Common Minimum Programme, which includes waiving farm loans, creation of one crore jobs, and allocation of Rs 1.25 lakh crore for irrigation over the next five years. It also included construction of 20 lakh houses for homeless families in the state in the next five years, along with implementation of a universal health policy, ‘Arogya Karnataka’ of the previous government, among others.
Kumaraswamy, who also holds the finance portfolio, had earlier cited coalition compulsions and the need for studying the financial condition of the state as the reason for the delay in the announcement of loan waiver. Financial experts and some government officials have already expressed concern over the impact loan waiver may have on the state’s finances.
It will also be interesting to see how Kumaraswamy, who has in the past claimed that he is not an expert on the economy, will strike a balance between loan waiver, flagship schemes of the previous government, new schemes or programmes if any, as also infrastructure needs of the state.
The budget also comes amid coalition worries and debate over whether there was a need for a full-fledged fresh budget as the government would continue almost all the flagship schemes of the previous government.
Former Chief Minister and Coordination committee chief Siddaramaiah, who held the finance portfolio in the previous government, had recently said there was no need for a fresh budget and insisted that a supplementary budget would do.
Meanwhile, the opposition BJP demanded that Kumaraswamy come out with a “white paper” on the state’s financial position before presenting the budget. Leader of the opposition in the Assembly B S Yeddyurappa warned that if the government fails to keep up its promises on loan waiver, BJP and all its 104 MLAs would go to the people with the Congress and JD(S) manifestos to inform them that the parties have not ‘walked the talk.’
with inputs from agencies