Bouquets and brickbats for Karnataka State Budget 2017-18

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah presented Karnataka State Budget on March 15th, 2017. Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), a citizens movement in Bengaluru, has welcomed the focus in the budget given to solve the mobility issues Bengaluru is facing, while asking the government to work more on a mobility strategy for the city. A press note from CfB says:

“We have noted that the CM is seeking to address the stressful issues of mobility that bother Bengaluru with more buses, expanded Namma Metro, commuter rail, improved roads, grade separators and short-span flyovers at junctions and better pedestrian facilities. The MOU with Railways & budget for  Suburban Rail is a good move given the public plea on ‘Chuku Buku Beku’, as is the effort towards Bus augmentation as highlighted in the ‘Bus Bhagya Beku’ initiative, but we at CfB see these as part of a larger complex and inter-connected city issues. For instance, the proposal to ban 2-stroke autos is too small a measure to tackle air pollution in a city with 65 lakh vehicles. The only answer is ‘Demotorisation’.

Therefore we urge the government to work on a suitable and integrated Mobility strategy for Bengaluru, embedded within a Rational Master Plan 2031 with better processes and structures for city governance, planning and public engagement.

We are also grateful that the Budget makes a mention of gender-sensitive issues, specially concerning policewomen, tech and apps for women and children safety . This is but a small start to address a major concern. Measures to augment emergency police contact and #100 Helpline and response facilities across districts are also welcome.

Finally, we are happy to note that the government has woken up to the burning issue of lakes, tanks and broken, blocked and polluted sewers in the city.

We wish to see a more detailed, interconnected and scientific programme to tackle these problems.”

Citizens for Bengaluru and Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike have been demanding doubling the bus fleet and halving the price. In a joint statement, they welcomed the move of introducing 3000 new buses, they stuck to their demand of halving the price and getting 9000 more BMTC buses.

The state government in its budget today has said that BMTC will have 3000 more buses. While we welcome this move, we re-iterate that Bangalore needs a total of 12000 buses and the bus fares must be reduced by half. The Janara Budget Goshti, organized by CfB and BBPV and with participation from all sections of the city, including garment workers, womens groups, students, IISc professors, demanded that BMTC be operated as a subsidized public service and not as a profit making corporation. Thousands of people gave missed calls to support these demands.

We appeal to all the Bengaluru city MLAs to represent us and raise this demand in the budget discussion and debate the pros and cons of bus bhagya. Several MLAs supported bus bhagya and have even written to the CM and we hope that they will now rise to the occasion for the sake of our city and speak up in support of bus. We will continue our efforts to reach out to the legislators and government to push Bus Bhagya forward with urgency.”

Namma Bengaluru Foundation has reacted strongly to the budget. Here is what a press note from the Foundation says, quoting Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO, Namma Bengaluru Foundation.

“The budget has failed to raise up to the challenges Bengaluru is facing today. Instead of disconnected piece meal projects being done for Mobility, the government must have invested in coming up with a comprehensive Mobility plan. The Sub Urban rail project gets a mere 325 crore while much less capacity walks away with a lion share. Increase of mere 3000 buses without scientific route reorganisation will not help much. The govt should have used the insights from BDA’s RMP origin destination studies and prioritised route modernisation of BMTC. Citizens demand of #BusBhagyaBeku demanded 6000 more buses and halving the bus rates. This is far from being met.

While Bellandur and Varthur lakes get mentioned and inspite of the expert committee report being with the government, they have failed to indicate the budgetary provision. A meagre 42 crores are woefully low for our lakes choking with contamination. Governance has suffered at the hands of plethora of disjointed populist measures.”

Dr. Rekha Jagannath, member, Karnataka State Planning Board, has this to say on the budget, calls it a budgetwhich makes a difference. According to her, it was a surplus budget. “This is also a rare achievement in deficit prone Indian public finance. He was budgeting for Rs 1.86 Lakh Crores. Opening balance was Rs 176.04 crore. Total Receipts: Rs 1,44,891.54 crore. Total Expenditure: Rs 1,44,755 crore. Surplus: Rs 136 crore,” she says. It was a welfare budget covering all needy sections, she says, and mentions all the welfare measures in the budget.

“There was no promise of any star. But all down to earth efforts to make life of the poorest better. It has to be noted that most of the provisions made are to be implemented in the short run for people to judge. This budget is transparent and not speculative. One could just take a light dig as to why CM is favouring women in prison, mortuaries in community health centers and starting Ambedkar School of Economics and Centre for Excellence of KASSIA,” she adds, in the note she sent to Citizen Matters.

Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FKCCI) calls the budget a best balanced budget, with no tax burden to common man. A press note sent by FKCCI on behalf of president M C Dinesh says: 

“He had to present this budget under difficult circumstances, particularly, due to the severe drought the State faced in the last two years because of which the agricultural production and related economic activities suffered drastically. Due to growing urbanisation there have been heavy demands for providing services to keep up with the demands. Chief Minister, in our view has done his best under the prevailing circumstances.

He has made efforts for an inclusive growth as well as all round progress of the State. He has addressed the issues concerning farmers and provided schemes and support for agriculture & rural development.  He has extended support for Industrial Development, Skill Development and to ensure last mile connectivity.  Because of Karnataka’s vibrant eco-system including cutting edge technologies, the State is an attractive destination for investment and business.  It is the technology hub and the Start-Up Capital of India.

He has provided Rs.150 crores to BBMP for construction of Railway over bridge and under bridge for uninterrupted movement of vehicles and a grant of Rs.300 crores for development of storm water drains for easing the living condition of Bengaluru.  The proposal to make Bengaluru the Electric Vehicle Capital of India and Introduction of 150 electric buses to Bangalore city and 50 electric buses to Mysuru is a welcome move.

As far as Trade and Industry is concerned, he has heard the pre-budget memoranda submitted by the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry and other Trade Bodies. We thank the Hon’ble Chief Minister for considering the request made by the FKCCI by allotting two acres of Industrial land / sites by KIADB and KSSIDC to SMEs on a 10 year lease cum sale basis instead of existing 99 years lease period.  We thank the Hon’ble Chief Minister for accepting our proposal to increase the loan amount from Rs.50 lakhs to Rs.2 crores at 4% interest by KSFC to Women Entrepreneurs.  We also thank for the grant of Rs.189 crores provided for e-governance Department.

We also thank the Hon’ble Chief Minister for not making any new tax proposals and also not burdening the common man with new taxes. We appreciate Chief Minister’s gesture for thanking Tax Payers for their support in conducting GST Awareness Programmes and compliance to e-Initiatives.

Tax exemption on common man’s food – Rice, Wheat, Ragi etc., is a welcome move. Exempting husk of pulses and coconut is good. We appeal to exempt Tamarind Husk also.

The Proposal of Karasamadhana Scheme for Taxes due under Commercial Taxes, waiving of penalty and interest to the tune of 90%, if the principle amount is paid on or before 31-05-2017 will relieve the burden on dealers who are in arrears of taxes so as to migrate with a clean slate to GST.

We also welcome the removal of VAT on liquor served in Bar and Restaurant with effect from 1.4.2017.

However, the request made by the Federation for the abolition of Trade License which facilitates ease of doing business was not considered in the budget. We hope the abolition of Trade License could be considered favourably.

Chief Minister has made every effort to balance the budget and to cater to various sections of the society. However, the relation between Trade & Industry bodies such as ours and the Government is an ongoing process. We would remain in continuous dialogue. We are happy that the Chief Minister has acknowledged FKCCI’s role in promoting awareness about GST that would benefit both the Government as well as Traders / Entrepreneurs. We are also thankful to the Hon’ble Chief Minister for his significant support to encourage our Federation in its efforts towards capacity building, training and research.”

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