The formation of a new university at Belgaum, the creation of an examination board as part of the Department of Pre-University Education, and reduction in the entry tax on tobacco are among the string of announcements made by Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
In a two-hour reply to the general discussion on the budget estimates for 2010-11, Mr. Yeddyurappa said the State Government would have in place an ambitious scheme for market intervention in the event prices of agricultural produce dropped below the minimum support price prescribed by the Union Government.
While in the current financial year the Government intervened in purchasing maize and arecanut, in the coming, year the government will intervene in purchasing coconut and copra since their prices were already down.
With reference to the free bicycle scheme for students of class eight (both boys and girls), the Chief Minister announced extending the scheme to even those who availed themselves of free passes for travel in Government buses and those residing in government hostels. Hitherto, the scheme was not open to such students. Extending the scheme to all students would entail an additional expenditure of around Rs. 15 crore to the Government.
Mr. Yeddyurappa said the entry tax on tobacco would be reduced from 4 per cent to 2 per cent to ensure that the taxation on tobacco was on par with the neighbouring States.
The reduction had been brought about to prevent diversion of tobacco trade to other States. In the State budget, the Government had announced a 2.5 per cent hike in the value added tax on tobacco from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent.
The Chief Minister also announced reviving the scheme of providing grants to primary, secondary and high schools and pre-university colleges from April 1.
All zilla panchayats would be given an additional grant of Rs. 1 crore from the ensuing financial year. The Government would launch a new scheme “Samarasya Grama Yojane” to promote communal harmony and brotherhood in the villages.
With reference to the charge levelled by Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah and others that the State was heading for a debt trap, Mr. Yeddyurappa provided details, including the total debts and interest payments, to indicate that the financial health of the State is sound. Citing figures, he said that the total debt of Andhra Pradesh was higher.
The Union Government too had a huge debt burden of Rs, 36.37 lakh crore, which is nearly 59 per cent of the GSDP, he argued. It is, however, important that loans were obtained for developmental projects and it should also be noted that there cannot be development without borrowings.
The Karnataka Appropriation (Vote on Account) Bill 2010 was later moved for consideration by the Chief Minister and was passed.