The Congress’s five guarantees — the poll plank on which they won the Karnataka assembly polls – were “in-principle” passed within hours of setting up the new cabinet. However, questions are being raised on the premise to qualify for the five guarantees.
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There is a need to give clarity on who can avail of the scheme, what would be the timeframe for the implementation and how money would be generated for its quick and effective implementation.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that his new cabinet, comprising eight ministers and Deputy CM DK Shivakumar, has given in-principle approval to implement the five guarantees. “We will work out the modalities and finer details on the finances and implementation soon. We have delivered on our promise in the first cabinet meet itself, as promised,” he said.
News18 spoke to Karnataka’s newly appointed Minister Priyank Kharge on how their government plans to make good on the promises made to the people of Karnataka. He said that the five schemes are not just ambitious and path-breaking projects for Karnataka, but are also aimed at making an economically stronger, happier and safer Karnataka.
Kharge said that in the meeting, the cabinet allocated the schemes to departments and told them to come out with an economic and working model framework for effective implementation. “Any scheme, be it by the state or by the central government, comes with riders, right? It is public money and there would be an audit. Even MGNREGA goes through a social audit… why is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) making such a hue and cry,” the leader asked.
“Tell me which people’s welfare scheme has not been riddled with criticism or initial hurdles? Look at the bigger picture. We are here to bring in a change, one that would empower, economically uplift, and set standards for other states to emulate,” Kharge said.
A lowdown on the five guarantees and how the Congress plans to bring them into effect:
GRIHA JYOTI YOJANE
Under this scheme, the Congress has promised 200 units of free power to all households.
Question: How does the government plan to calculate who will get free power?
Kharge explained that any household that consumes less than 200 units of power will not be charged. “If a house records even 0.1 points more than 200 units, the household will have to pay the bill for the full amount,” he said.
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He further explained that the idea behind these people-friendly schemes is to first target the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, then the lower-income families, as that is where any state’s strength lies, and it is the responsibility of the government to cater to their economic needs and ensure all forms of assistance.
He further clarified that 84% of Karnataka consumes less than 200 units, and everybody qualifies, including APL and BPL families. The target is to first uplift the BPL families, he added. “So if one were to include only BPL families, then it reduces the list by 40%. We need to work out the modalities,” he said.
According to the government, Rs 1,200 crore is required to implement the Griha Jyoti scheme.
GRIHA LAKSHMI YOJANE
This women-centric scheme aims at providing Rs 2,000 monthly assistance to the woman head of every family.
Questions: Who qualifies as the woman head? Does she need to be married? How does she prove that she is the woman head of the family?
The minister clarified that the “eldest lady in a household” will qualify. This is where we have asked the department concerned to bring in details of who can avail of this scheme.
“For example, in my house, technically my mother should be getting the benefit. If I live separately and my mother lives separately, then my wife and mother can avail as it is two different households,” he said, emphasising that the promised scheme is to bring economic stability among the weaker strata of society, and the first beneficiary should be the BPL families and lower-income groups.
YUVA NIDHI YOJANE
This scheme states that every unemployed graduate youth can avail of Rs 3,000 every month. Unemployed diploma holders aged 18-25 can avail of Rs 1,500 per month for two years.
The government order states that the terms and conditions for the scheme would be issued separately, but the scheme can be availed “for a maximum of two years”.
Questions: How does one calculate how many youth qualify for the scheme? What checks and balances would be in place to ensure that the scheme reaches the unemployed and is not misused where once a youth gets a job, the scheme automatically discontinues under his name? Around 4.5 lakh youth graduate every year from Karnataka, and another 50,000 diploma students. How long can they avail of the scheme?
“This is one-of-its-kind schemes, and we hope that the youth get jobs in the two-year time period. There will be a robust checking process on their placements. There is no denying that it could lead to leaks where we may not know if a youth has got a job and is also enjoying the benefits of the scheme, but that percentage is minuscule,” explained Kharge.
It is learned that the labour department will also have to keep a close eye on the applicants and their status to ensure that there is no misuse, say experts.
On when it would be made effective, the minister clarified it would be this academic year as their government has just come to power.
Under this scheme, women can travel freely in the state transport buses.
Questions: Is it local travel or interstate? Would there be any conditions on who amongst women can avail of the scheme?
On this, the minister said it would be applicable only for local travel, using the four state public transport bus services — Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), Bangalore Metropolitan Bus Transport Corporation (BMTC), North West Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC), and Kalyana Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KKSTRC).
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“Local travel is free for women in these buses. In this scheme, we will be agnostic about APL and BPL as it is for ease of travel for women locally. To make it clear, if a woman wants to travel interstate, say an Airavatha (interstate luxury bus service), she would have to pay the ticket fare,” Kharge explained.
ANNA BHAGYA YOJANE
The Congress manifesto promised that the government will provide 10 kg of rice to every member of a BPL household free of charge, which includes six dhaanyas or grains such as rice, millets, wheat, etc).
“A total of 10 kg will be given to a BPL family; this includes the central food scheme as well,” Kharge said.
The Centre also provides a free rice supply scheme for the poor under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), wherein a BPL family can avail five kg per head.
Preliminary estimates indicate that overall Rs 50,000 crore would be required annually to fulfil the guarantees, and the government will be working out the modalities to generate income for its fulfillment.
“We are looking at alternate revenue sources as well. We are coming with out-of-the-box solutions to help generate revenue as our aim is not just to bring financial stability for households, but also for the state of Karnataka,” the minister added.
WAR OF WORDS
Siddaramaiah criticised the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, referring to it as “useless.” He specifically blamed Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the economic losses suffered by the state.
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According to Siddaramaiah, the previous government failed to secure the state’s rightful share of taxes. He highlighted that the Centre still owed Karnataka ₹5,495 crore, as recommended by the 15th Finance Commission. He directed his criticism towards the current Bommai government for its inability to obtain the state’s share of taxes and for not pressuring the Centre to release the recommended special allowance.
In response, former Karnataka Chief Minister Bommai retaliated by pointing out a stark contrast between the Congress party’s promises and their actual actions. He emphasized that the announcements made by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah after the first Cabinet failed to live up to the people’s expectations. Bommai claimed that the people were anticipating substantial announcements with immediate implementation. He cited an example where some women were promised free bus travel, but expressed disappointment in the overall announcements made by the government.