Siddaramaiah said that promoting public transport is his priority to reduce traffic congestion and pollution as he expressed the view that integrating various modes of public transport in Bengaluru will help achieve this goal. | File photo

Karnataka govt to waive interest on overdue loans of district cooperative banks: CM

The govt will embark on an ambitious project of digitising property tax records of all 20 lakh properties in Bengaluru and issue digital e-Khata (legal document issued to property owners) from fiscal year 2024-25

The Karnataka government has decided to waive interest on medium and long-term overdue loans of District Cooperative Central and Primary Cooperative Agriculture and Rural Development banks, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said on Friday, claiming that it would benefit more than 57,000 farmers.

Presenting the 2024-25 budget in the assembly, he said an Agriculture Development Authority will be created under the chairmanship of the chief minister to facilitate effective implementation of policies related to agriculture and allied activities.

"Our government has decided to waive off interest on medium and long-term overdue loans of DCC and Primary Cooperative Agriculture and Rural Development (PICARD) banks. This will benefit more than 57,000 farmers. As a result of this scheme, the DCC/ PICARD banks will be able to recover loans to the tune of Rs.496 crore," Siddaramaiah said.

He said the government will provide Rs 450 crore financial assistance by way of compensation to the banks under the scheme. "This decision will bring about a considerable improvement in the financial condition of these banks," the chief minister said.

Boost for farmers

Siddaramaiah said that in 2023-24 it was decided to extend the loan limit for interest-free short term loan from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh and, similarly, the upper limit for medium and long-term loans, which are provided at a subsidised interest rate of 3 per cent, was raised from Rs 10 lakh to 15 lakh.

In the current year, the targeted lending through the cooperative sector is Rs 27,000 crore, he said, adding that this would benefit more than 36 lakh farmers in the state.

To encourage integrated agriculture, various schemes related to the agricultural sector will be consolidated and a new scheme called 'Karnataka Raitha Samruddhi Yojane' will be started from this year, the chief minister said.

A new programme "Namma Millet" will be started, under which processed millets and value-added millets will be made available at affordable prices, he added.

To promote sustainable agriculture in drought-affected and rain-fed areas of the state and to aid soil and water conservation, 5,000 water bodies will be created over a period of five years, the chief minister said.

To promote processing, value addition and export of agricultural and horticultural produce, food parks will be established near airports under Public-Private Partnership, Siddaramaiah said.

Food parks

In the current year, these food parks will be established at Sogane in Shivamogga district, Ittangihala in Vijayapura District and Pujenahalli village in Bengaluru rural district, he informed in the Assembly. "Kisan Malls" will be opened in select districts to provide farmers with horticulture related technical guidance, market connectivity, farm implements and agro products under one roof, he said.

Floriculture is practised in 40,000 hectares of land in the State, Siddaramaiah said. To promote sales and exports of floricultural crops, a well-equipped commercial floriculture market of international standards will be set up in Bengaluru city under Public-Private Partnership, he added.

A "Spice Park" will be developed in Chikkamagaluru district under public-private partnership to encourage spice growing farmers and promote export of spices, he added.

To encourage dairy farming among women, six per cent interest subsidy will be provided on the condition of timely repayment of the loan availed for buying cow/ buffalo, the chief minister announced.

For the prevention of atrocities on nomadic shepherds and their properties, an Act will be enacted, he said.

The government also plans to invest Rs 3,000 crore in the coming years for all-round development of the fisheries sector, Siddaramaiah said.

For emergency evacuation of fishermen in the event of health emergencies and accidents, the State's first sea ambulance will be introduced at a cost of Rs seven crore, the chief minister said.

Digital ownership

The Karnataka government will embark on an ambitious project of digitising property tax records of all 20 lakh properties in Bengaluru and issue digital e-Khata (legal document issued to property owners) from fiscal year 2024-25, Siddaramaiah said in his budget speech.

Noting that the state capital was headed towards a ‘record' tax collection of Rs 4,300 crore in the current fiscal, which is Rs 1,000 crore more than 2022-23, Siddaramaiah said the target in 2024-25 will be Rs 6,000 crore.

This target of Rs 6,000 crore revenue will be achieved by preventing leakages in the tax collection system, he said.

Siddaramaiah said additional non-tax resources of Rs 2,000 crore will be mobilised through revised advertisement policies and premium Floor Area Ratio (FAR) policy from this fiscal year.

FAR is a formula based on the building's construction area and total floor area that is usable.

Brand Bengaluru

The chief minister said augmentation of resources, reducing traffic congestion, construction of quality roads and supply of clean drinking water in Bengaluru are the areas of focus for the Karnataka government in 2024-25.

The government has conceptualised ‘Brand Bengaluru’ to improve the quality of life of people and attract investors to develop the state capital into a world-class city, he said, adding that major reforms in various sectors have been introduced.

To reduce traffic congestion on a priority basis, the government will ensure that the white-topping or cement road construction of 147 km long major roads will be completed by December 2025, Siddaramaiah said.

The chief minister noted that widening of existing roads was difficult due to scarcity of land and problems in land acquisition.

"In this backdrop, the state government has decided to resolve traffic congestion in the city by constructing underground tunnels. On a pilot basis, a tunnel will be constructed this year at Hebbal Junction, where there is high traffic congestion," Siddaramaiah said.

Business corridor

He proposed to reposition the Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) as Bengaluru Business Corridor to address traffic congestion and to promote large scale economic activities in Bengaluru.

"Under this project, a Request for Proposal has been invited to construct a 73 km road at a cost of Rs 27,000 crore under PPP model. It is proposed to start the project this year itself," the Chief Minister said.

The government has also planned to construct a 250-metre high Skydeck in Bengaluru to make it a "landmark" tourist destination in the city.

In addition, captive solar parks will be established in various institutions under the Urban Development Department such as Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board and Bangalore Development Authority, the Chief Minister said.

Public transport

Siddaramaiah said that promoting public transport is his priority to reduce traffic congestion and pollution as he expressed the view that integrating various modes of public transport in Bengaluru will help achieve this goal.

He laid emphasis on various modes of transport such as metro rail, suburban railway and services run by Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC).

The chief minister said by March 2025 an additional 44 km will be added to the existing 74 km of Metro line. Further, Metro Rail project Phase-2 and Phase-2A from Outer Ring Road to Airport Road will be completed by June 2026.

During the current year, the Metro Rail Service has become profitable (operational profit) for the first time in its history, he said.

Namma Metro

Siddaramaiah also pointed out that the state government has accorded administrative approval for works under Namma Metro Phase-3 at an estimated cost of Rs 15,611 crore. Approval of the Central government is awaited, he said.

Further, a draft Detailed Project Report (DPR) is being prepared for construction of a Metro Line from Sarjapura to Agara, Koramangala, Dairy Circle and connecting to Hebbal via Mekhri Circle under Namma Metro Phase-3A. This project will also be submitted to the Centre for approval, the Chief Minister said.

Siddaramaiah underlined that the Bengaluru Suburban Rail Project (BSRP), which was moving at a 'snail's pace,' had picked up pace after his government assumed power.

Civil works for Corridor-2 from Baiyappanahalli to Chikkabanavara are being implemented speedily and work orders have been issued for construction of a 46.2 km long line from Heelalige to Rajanukunte under Corridor-4, he explained.

Additional grants

The chief minister said the Requests for Proposal (RFP) have been invited for operation and management of rolling stock and agreements have been signed with European Investment Bank and KfW Bank of Germany for financial assistance.

"This year we will draw the attention of the Central government towards this ambitious project (BSRP) and we will urge them to provide additional grants. State government will release matching grants," Siddaramaiah said.

Regarding city buses, the Chief Minister said 1,334 new electric buses and 820 BS-6 diesel buses will be added to BMTC fleet in the coming days.

A vehicle tracking mobile app with women's safety features is being developed by the BMTC for the benefit of commuters, he informed the House.

Commitment to Kannada

Siddaramaiah chose to convey the Congress government's strong belief in the Indian Constitution along with a commitment to the promotion of Kannada in his budget speech.

The cover page of the budget book had the image of the preamble of the Constitution, and the Kannada flag bearing yellow and red colour. The back cover had the photo of Vidhana Soudha, Karnataka's seat of power, with the tricolour flying atop.

The chief minister said, “We are marching ahead towards setting a new example of the Karnataka model of development founded on the principles of justice, equality and fraternity enshrined in our Constitution written by Babasaheb Dr BR Ambedkar. Social justice is not just our belief but a broader perspective towards life.”

(With agency inputs)

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