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Karnataka: Congress Government Announces Time-frame to Implement Five Election “Guarantees”

Karnataka: Congress Government Announces Time-frame to Implement Five Election “Guarantees”

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 2: Bringing an end to the speculation over the implementation of the pre-poll guarantees the Congress promised in its Karnataka Assembly election manifesto, the State Cabinet on Friday decided to implement all five guarantees during the current financial year itself starting with Shakthi — the scheme for free travel for women — from June 11.

The Congress government was under pressure from the Opposition parties over the implementation of its guarantees that had received in-principle approval from the first cabinet on May 19, the day the Siddaramaiah ministry was installed in the office with oath of office along with nine Cabinet Ministers, including the Deputy Chief Minister.

“We held a cabinet meeting today. We discussed all five promises thoroughly. We have decided that all five guarantees will be implemented in the present financial year,” Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said. The state BJP had threatened to launch a state-wide protest if the government did not launch the “guarantees” within a month.

The free electricity scheme (Gruha Jyoti) will depend on the yearly consumption at the household level. A monthly average will be calculated, an extra 10 per cent added to it, and one won’t have to pay the power bill if the final figure is below 200 units. This will start from July 1. “200 units of electricity will be free… Consumers who haven’t paid their bills till July will have to pay,” said Siddaramaiah.

For Gruha Lakshmi, ₹ 2,000 monthly assistance to the woman head of every family, bank accounts will need to be linked to Aadhaar. Due to technical problems in Aadhaar linking, and determining who is the family head, the verification process will start from June 15 to July 15, and finish by August 15 when the payments will begin. This scheme is for both Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Antyodaya cardholders. Those who already avail of social security pensions will get this ₹ 2,000 on top of that if she is the head of the family.

Anna Bhagya promises an assured 10 kg of rice free to every member of a BPL household. “We were giving 7 kg (in the previous government), they (BJP) made it 5 kg. Now, 10 kg of rice per head will be given to all members of BPL families,” he said. This will begin on July 1.

Under the Uchita Prayana guarantee, the Chief Minister announced free bus travel for women within the state in state-run buses from June 11. However, the women passengers can travel only within Karnataka, not inter-state. The scheme also excludes AC and luxury buses. However, to avoid all-women buses, half the total number of seats in the Karnataka State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses would be reserved for men and the other half for women.

Youth who remain unemployed six months after their degree can apply to avail of ₹ 3,000 per month for 24 months as part of the Yuva Nidhi guarantee. This includes transgender people too.  ₹ 1,500 per month will be given to unemployed diploma holders for the same duration. If they find a job in the meantime, then the payment would be stopped, Siddaramaiah announced.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Wednesday mocked the Congress in Rajasthan — the next crucial electoral battleground ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections — raising questions about the stability of its government and what he called its “guarantee formula” for state elections.  “The Congress has a new formula of guarantees. But are they fulfilling their guarantees? Their guarantees will leave the country bankrupt,” he said.

Though the chief minister refused to spell out the burden the guarantees would cost on the state exchequer, it was estimated that the five schemes together could cost around Rs 50,000 annually. Key party leaders who spoke about the cost of the welfare measures insisted that one could not call them “freebies” as they were tools of empowerment.

“All the five guarantees will be implemented this financial year. We will reach our guarantees to persons of all castes, communities and linguistic groups in Karnataka,” Siddaramaiah said in a media briefing on Friday. He was accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister and KPCC President D.K. Shivakumar along with a host of Cabinet colleagues.

The Karnataka Chief Minister said, “The government has taken utmost care to avoid misuse of the facilities being extended and the misuse of funds while implementing these five guarantees for the benefit of the poor and middle class.” When his attention was drawn towards criticism from the Opposition over the delay in implementing guarantees, Siddaramaiah said, “We implemented 158 promises out of 165 made in the previous term. The BJP did not honour even half of 600 promises made. What moral right do they have to ask?”

The ‘guarantees’ reportedly found resonance with voters of the May 10 Assembly elections, particularly with women, and played a key role in the party’s resounding victory.

 

 

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