Sops for rural is tax on urban

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The hiccup: Excise duty on liquor up
Bengaluru: Liquor prices will increase from August 1 as the government proposes to revise additional excise duty as part of its drive to mobilize resources and achieve an ambitious target of Rs 12, 600 crore for 2013-14.
On Friday, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced the hike in additional excise duty across 17 slabs of Indian made liquor, ranging between 8.41 per cent and 19.16 per cent. In terms of price increase the cheapest IML available at Rs 37.79 for a pint will go up by Rs 3 and the most expensive IML will increase by Rs 61 per pint.
The hike in additional excise duty, the highest effected in the last five years, would help boost the revenue of excise department. Against a revenue target of Rs 11,200 crore for 2012-13, the department could achieve only Rs 11,069.
For 2013-14, the previous BJP government had announced a target of Rs 12,600 crore. “There was no option but to increase the AED on all liquor slabs to make up for the shortfall of Rs 131 crore in last year’s revenue target and the additional burden of hike of Rs 1,200 crore in this year’s target,” a top official told Deccan Chronicle.
While prices of IML would go up marginally, those of beer and wine would remain unchanged. Importantly, the Chief Minister also announced that the government would recruit officers for vacancies in the department on “war footing” basis. “There are 50 per cent vacancies across all posts” he said, adding that the government would also set up an Excise Academy in Sira taluk, Tumkur district.
In a significant move, Siddaramaiah scrapped the ban on production of neera (coconut sap) through an amendment to the Excise Act to help coconut farmers in Karnataka. Manufacture of palm jaggery, palm sugar and syrup would be promoted to increase the revenue of farmers.
It is, however, not clear whether the amendment would permit the production of toddy – an alcoholic beverage, which is derived after fermenting neera. “Enforcement will become a big problem with lifting of the ban on neera because this will inadvertently lead to manufacture of illicit toddy,” said an officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
10,000 cr for energy but what’s the plan?
The state government has allocated Rs 10,312 crore to the energy sector, but experts slammed it, saying the measures lacked 'practical' approach.
To start with, the government has decided to waive of electricity dues, including penalties, for Bhagyajyoti (BJ) and Kuteerjyoti (KJ) scheme beneficiaries, effective from May 13, 2013. Experts say that while this will benefit the poor, it lacks vision.
"The first step should be ensuring metering for all BJ/KJ consumers and only then will we know what the consumption is. At present, what we are seeing is only estimated consumption, which could be exaggerated. Instead of taking measures to save electricity, this measure will only add to the burden," said M.G. Prabhakar, FKCCI energy committee president.
The electricity consumption of BJ/KJ consumers is estimated to be around 16,500 million units and the subsidy that has to be waived works out to around Rs 7,500 crore. The government has already received Rs 1,500 crore by way of cross subsidy from industries, but that still leaves a deficit of Rs 6000 crore.
All these calculations are done on only estimated not actual consumption, so Prabhakar is right when he says that the first step should have been “metering IP sets and then promoting the solar pump sets together. That would have saved energy and waste of money."
On a more positive note, the government has announced an investment of Rs 800 crore in the power sector. It has promised to increase the number of transformer repair centres to 100 from the present 72, to address the issue of power cuts.
More transformer banks at sub division level will be brought in to ensure timely replacement of failed transformers.
Green Measures
The government has announced a scheme for providing solar energy water pumps to farmers this fiscal year. The government has also announced a plan to subsidise the cost of solar home applications by 75 per cent.It has also promised to revive the solar roof top project and energy efficiency programme in government buildings.
Farmers to get interest-free loans
Not losing sight of the coming Lok Sabha elections, the Budget has retained many  populist schemes of the previous BJP government in the agriculture sector that saw a slump in growth  from 12.4 per cent  in 2007-08 to 1.8 per cent  in 20012-13.
Not only has agriculture received a  budgetary outlay of Rs 3095 crore,  but the scheme to provide low interest loans to farmers from the cooperative sector has received a further boost with the government upping the loan on zero interest from Rs one lakh to Rs two lakh and on one per cent interest to Rs 3 lakh from the existing Rs two lakh.
The three  per cent interest on medium and long term loans of  upto Rs 10 lakh will continue. Also , to make sure that farmers receive a minimum input price for their produce, an Agricultural Price Commission will be set up with  farmers, agricultural experts and agro-economists on board to fix suitable prices.
If necessary, the price commission will resort to market intervention by offering a support price. The revolving fund required to finance this has been enhanced to Rs 1000 crore. Natural calamity guidelines are being revised to give farmers better compensation. Besides embarking on a pilot project to provide 5 hp solar irrigation pumps in two districts of the state, the government has decided to subsidise drip irrigation upto 90 per cent for SC/ST farmers and upto 75 per cent for others.
Under horticulture, which has received Rs 300 crore, the government has decided to amend the Excise Act, which prohibits a ban on extraction of 'neera' and instead promote  its value added products  like palm syrup, palm jaggery and palm sugar  for the benefit of coconut growers.
Rural development varsity planned
The state government has decided to set up a separate commissionerate for rural development and facilitate effective implementation and efficient monitoring of MGNREGA scheme.
Elaborating on the Rs 8218 crore plan outlay for rural development and panchayat raj (RDPR) department in the budget, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said under the scheme, it was planned to take up horticulture development and water shed activities in land belonging to 75,000 SC/ST/small and marginal farmers.
Besides installing 1000 water purification units for providing pure drinking water to rural people, action would be taken to rejuvenate 12,000 tanks belonging to zilla panchayats. Besides, the government intends to create a separate rural water supply and sanitation department for effective implementation and efficient monitoring of drinking water programs in the rural areas.
Also on the anvil are a university to promote suitable skills and competence in rural development and panchayat raj, regional training centres of Abdul Nazeer Sab Institute of Rural Development in Dharwad, Gulbarga and Mangalore.
Generic drug stores in every taluk
One generic drug store in each taluk to make medicines more within the reach of the poor, and residential care centres for the mentally ill  in all taluks are some of the plans  spelled out for the heath sector by Budget 2013-14.
While Bengaluru is all set to get an  Indian Institute of Public Health to strengthen its health care facilities, health cover is being extended to larger sections of  society to take the state closer to the goal of universal health coverage.
Other proposals include increasing the number of  medical seats in colleges, upgrading government hospitals and ambulance services, and  establishing medical colleges in Karwar, Kodagu,Koppal and Chamarajanagar.
Also on the cards is nutritional support for elderly TB and HIV patients. While the Budget has  come out with only limited such schemes for the health sector,  it has upped its allocation by 1,394 crore. As against the Rs 4,027 crore allocated for it by the previous government, the sector has received Rs 5,421 crore  this time.
Dr. Sudarshan Ballal, Medical Director and Chairman,  Medical Advisory Board, Manipal Health Enterprises  describes the allocation of over Rs 5000 crores for health care as reasonable.
“The positive aspect of the Budget is its emphasis on primary healthcare in the form of AYUSH units in each taluk. I feel it is rural oriented and common man- friendly and so I would give it 7 on 10 but the key will be timely implementation,”  he added.
Girls who attend class I to get Rs 2 a day
In a new initiative every little girl of class l in government schools will receive Rs 2 for each  day’s attendance  to encourage more of them to  opt for an education.
Chief Minister Siddara­m­aiah, who rolled out the biggest  allocation of Rs 18923 crore a year  for the education sector, also  promised to introduce English in government schools from Class I in response to popular demand besides  restructuring  them into centers of “ harmony and learning”  with the help of philanthropists, institutions and corporates.
In another reform he proposed to restructure the SSLC and PUC examination management system  by going online. The Budget also announced scholarships for students and free education for  children of HIV and leprosy patients, but  made no mention of any new scheme for  higher education.
The Chief Minister did however, promise that colleges which had a 10 per cent higher pass  percentage than the university average would be rewarded with better infrastructure and their teachers too suitably rewarded.
A one time development grant of Rs 5 crore each was announced for the newly established Rani Chennamma University in Belgaum,  the Women’s University in Bijapur and the Davangere University.
But this hardly seemed to  matter to  an officer of the higher education department , who found the  Budget  a huge disappointment.  “Although we need to upgrade state universities, and colleges in the face of growing competition from the private universities no special programmes have been announced for them.
They haven’t even received enough funds.  The education department has paid the price for the government’s populist programmes," he lamented.

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