With polls coming next year, CM Siddu may go for a budget full of goodies. Will HKRDB get 1500 crores as demanded?

The Hindu|| State::  After a near wipeout of the Congress in the Uttar Pradesh elections, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is expected to present his last full-fledged Budget with a bundle of “please-all and populist” schemes, including crop loan waiver. All this, with an eye on next year’s legislative Assembly elections.

The total outlay of the Budget for 2017-18 is expected to cross Rs. 2 lakh crore, for the first time. Only a handful of States have a Budget outlay of over Rs. 2 lakh crore. Last year’s Budget outlay was Rs. 1,63,419 crore.

Record number

Mr. Siddaramaiah, who will present his 12th Budget, which is a record number by any Finance Minister in the State, on March 15, is likely to announce waiver of crop loans up to Rs. 3 lakh borrowed from government-run cooperatives.

This move is aimed at wooing farmers, a major vote bank. Farmers have been severely affected owing to droughts for the last three years.

The proposal will cost the exchequer Rs. 10,500 crore, official sources said. About 23 lakh farmers have obtained farm loans from cooperative banks, and 33 lakh farmers have borrowed from nationalised banks (Rs. 42,000 crore) during 2016-17.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Siddaramaiah expressed his willingness to waive farm loans borrowed from cooperative banks, and challenged the Centre to waive crop loans availed from nationalised banks.

Unlike last year, this Budget is expected to provide more sops to middleclass consumers. Sources said it would not burden the salaried class with additional taxes on petrol and diesel, transport vehicles, soft drinks, beer, liquor, entertainment, and cable services.

Pay scale revision

In an attempt to win another major constituency – government employees – Mr. Siddaramaiah will announce constitution of a 7th Pay Commission to revise the pay scale of over six lakh staff, sources said. Junior college teachers and policemen have been demanding hike in pay scale for the last few years.

It is also learnt that Mr. Siddaramaiah will announce a slew of measures to woo AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits). A proposal was mooted to provide free admissions to students belonging to BPL families, who have secured CET merit seats, in professional courses under the government quota. This will cost the exchequer Rs. 5,100 crore a year, sources said.

Earlier, many Ministers had advocated the need to announce new schemes targeted at unemployed youth that could brighten the party’s prospects cutting across castes. Education, health and rural development, and drinking water departments would incorporate most of novel schemes to complement the party’s vote-securing efforts, it is learnt.

Sources said Mr. Siddaramaiah would also announce formation of new taluks, as some of the existing taluks were too big for ensuring effective delivery of services.

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