KARNATAKA

Siddaramaiah rules out rethink on taxing IT products

MYSORE, JULY 24. The Deputy Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, today ruled out withdrawal of taxes imposed on computer peripherals, software, and related items, and said it would not be burden on consumers.

Addressing presspersons here, Mr. Siddaramaiah allayed fears that IT majors would move out of Karnataka for perceived poor infrastructure facilities in Bangalore or increase in tax. He said the State provided some of the best infrastructure facilities for IT industries and hence Karnataka continued to attract investors.

Mr. Siddaramaiah was reacting to criticism against the enhancement of tax on computer peripherals and related items from 5.75 per cent to 13.8 per cent in the State Budget presented by him.

Defending the decision to increase the tax, Mr. Siddaramaiah said this did not mean that the Government was anti-IT. He pointed out that the ITPL in Bangalore came up during the tenure of the Janata Dal (S) Government headed by J.H. Patel. Hence, it was a fallacy to state that the Janata Dal (S) was anti-IT, Mr. Siddaramaiah said and pointed out that investors were continuing to come to Bangalore and that there was no flight of capital from the city.

"Show me one IT industry which has moved out of Bangalore," he said. "They will neither go Andhra Pradesh or anywhere as Karnataka provided the best infrastructure," he said.

Biotechnology

Pointing out that the State Government was sincere in its efforts to encourage technology-driven industries, Mr. Siddaramaiah pointed out that Rs. 10 crores had been earmarked in the Budget for biotechnology. He also discounted fears that high taxes on IT would discourage new industries from coming to Karnataka and saying the two were not related.

Mr. Siddaramaiah said that Stree Shakti Sanghas in the district would be authorised to manage the kitchen in government schools implementing the midday meal scheme.

He pointed out that this was already done in Chikmagalur district and the results were encouraging. It would be introduced in Mysore district on an experimental basis. If the Stree Shakti Sanghas in Mysore too could execute the programme without any hitch, then the concept would be introduced throughout the State, he said.

The decision to include the Stree Shakti groups in the midday meal scheme was a fallout of the fire tragedy at a school in Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu in which 90 children were burnt alive, and hence safety measures were of paramount importance.

Extension of scheme

He said State Government had decided to extend the midday meal scheme to students up to the seventh standard from this year. The scheme covered only students between the first standard and the fifth standard when it was introduced last year. As a result of the latest decision, an additional 25 lakh children would be brought under the ambit of the midday meal scheme.

The Government had decided to increase the spending on midday meals from Re. 1 to Rs. 1.31 per child.

Rice diversion

Commenting on the rice diversion scandal in which officials were alleged to have diverted the rice meant for the food-for-work scheme, Mr. Siddaramaiah said a committee headed by the Revenue Minister had been constituted and would issue fresh guidelines on the implementation of the programme. The ministries of Agriculture, Rural Development, and Law were also on the committee and the recommendations pertaining to the programme would be strictly implemented, Mr. Siddaramaiah said.

He said there was a proposal to have a new ESCOM for Mysore, Hassan, Mandya, and Chamarajanagar to reduce the burden on the staff and streamline the operations. He said an electrical substation would be set up at Elwal and Melapura and the work would commence soon. Earlier, Mr. Siddaramaiah reviewed the development works in the district.

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