Free bus passes, waivers, grants, incentives: ‘Revdi’ by BJP government in Karnataka budget 2023

In his second budget, Basavaraj Bommai announced several financial assistance schemes to agrarians, youth, women and SC/ST communities.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Feb 17, 2023 | 11:14 PMUpdatedFeb 18, 2023 | 7:46 AM

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai made an attempt to woo large sections of electors with freebies in the budget. (Representational image/Creative Commons)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may mock welfare schemes as “Revdi culture” or “freebies culture”, but that hasn’t stopped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in poll-bound Karnataka from doling out a range of such freebies in its budget.

As part of the interim Karnataka Budget 2023-24, the last one before the end of his government’s term ahead of Karnataka Assembly elections, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai announced a slew of welfare measures — from free bus passes to fee waivers.

Bommai made an attempt to woo large sections of agrarians, marginalised communities, women, and students with targeted schemes, including cash assistance.

He presented the last budget of this legislative tenure at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Friday, 17 February.

Incentives for farmers, weavers, fishermen

A ₹100-crore grant for the Karnataka Grapes and Wine Board and an incentive of ₹10,000 for farmers growing minor millets under the Raithasiri Yojane were among the key welfare announcements in the budget.

While some new schemes found a mention, old schemes that hadn’t taken off also found a push in the budget.

“A total of ₹400 crore is provided for ‘Raitha Shakthi Yojana’ to give diesel subsidy as announced last year. In order to encourage farm mechanisation, ₹2,037 crore has been allocated.”

The Raitha Shakthi Yojana, announced in the previous budget, is yet to be implemented by the Bommai government.

“Bhoo Siri” — a scheme that gives an additional subsidy of ₹10,000 for Kisan Credit Card holders — was also announced.

“This would facilitate the farmers to purchase seeds, fertiliser, pesticides, and other farm inputs in times of emergencies,” Bommai said.

“The state will contribute ₹2,500 and NABARD will provide ₹7,500. This will benefit around 50 lakh farmers in the state. Action will be taken to provide life insurance to 56 lakh small and marginal farmers under ‘Jeevan Jyothi Bima Yojane’ at a cost of ₹180 crore,” he said.

Another key “revdi” to farmers was a hike in interest-free short-term loans from ₹3 lakh to ₹5 lakh.

Related: Bommai presents ₹3 lakh crore budget ahead of Assembly polls

Houses for fishermen came next. “Our government has given priority to providing housing facilities to houseless fishermen. Last year, 5,000 houses were sanctioned. An additional 10,000 will be sanctioned to the fishermen during the current year.” 

The Raitha Vidya Nidhi scheme, which was announced by Bommai soon after taking oath of office, is now being extended to children of tailors from the 2023-24 fiscal year.

“An amount of ₹725 crore has been provided for 10.32 lakh children under the ‘Raitha Vidya Nidhi’ scheme. In 2022-23, this was extended to the children of landless agricultural labourers, weavers, fishermen, auto-rickshaw drivers and others covering 3 lakhs children with an expenditure of ₹141 crore. The scheme will be extended to the children of Tailors during the current year,” announced Bommai.

He increased the financial assistance being given under “Nekarara Sammana Yojane” from ₹3,000 to ₹5,000.

“For the first time in the history of the state, Nekarara Sammana Yojane has been extended to power loom weavers and pre-loom labourers,” said Bommai.

Fee waiver, free bus pass, cash assistance

The biggest “revdi” for students came in the form of a fee waiver.

Bommai announced free education for intermediate and degree students in government colleges starting in the upcoming fiscal year.

Free education for all is one of the primary poll pitches of the Janata Dal (Secular), and is a key message in the party’s Pancharatna Yatre being led by former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy.

“In order to enable all the children who pass out of high school to continue their higher education, they will be provided with free education in Government Pre-University and Government Degree Colleges under the CM Vidya Shakti Scheme. This decision will benefit 8 lakh students of the state.” he said calling it a landmark decision.

Related: Experts say implementation is key in Karnataka health budget

After many ministers and legislators complained about the poor bus service in the rural areas affecting the students, Bommai announced the ‘Makkala Bus’ scheme in the budget.

“As many as 19 lakh school and college students depend on the public bus service for their education. In order to enhance the coverage, it is proposed to launch the ‘Makkala Bus’ scheme,” announced Bommai.

He further said: “An additional 1,000 schedules will be operated through the state road transport corporations at the cost of ₹100 crore. This will benefit an additional 2 lakh students every year.”

Focusing on rural students, Bommai announced the “Halli Muthu” scheme. “For 500 excellent students who have completed their school education in the state-run Kannada medium Schools and got selected for professional courses in the government quota through CET, the entire fee will be borne by Karnataka Examination Authority,” announced Bommai.

The AAP and the DMK’s free bus travel for women initiatives have been mocked in the past, but the BJP’s own government in Karnataka has announced free bus passes for girl students and women working in the organised sector.

“A decision has also been taken to provide free bus pass facility to all school and college girl students of the State at a cost of ₹350 crore under the ‘Vidhya Vahini’ scheme. A total of 8 lakh girl students will benefit from this scheme.”

Scheme mirrors Congress’ ‘Gruha Lakshmi guarantee’

While Bommai had mocked the Congress’ Universal Income Plan guarantee of ₹2,000 per women heads of household in Karnataka, but his budget made space for cash assistance to select women groups.

 Bommai announced a slew of welfare measures targeted at women under ‘Gruhini Shakti Yojana’. One of the initiatives is a payment of monthly financial assistance to landless women farm labourers.

“A new scheme called ‘Shrama Shakthi’ is being launched under which a financial assistance of ₹500 per month will be provided to the landless women farm labourers,” pronounced Bommai.

He also said: “It is proposed to provide free bus pass facility to all women working in the organized sector. ₹1,000 crore will be provided to this scheme which will benefit a total of 30 lakh women.”

Related: Over 100 promises made by Bommai in previous budget unfulfilled

Move to counter Congress’ free electricity pitch 

Weeks after the Congress, as part of its election guarantees, promised free electricity of up to 200 units per household in the state, the budget allocated funds to ensure free electricity to select groups.

The Bommai government announced 75 units of free electricity facility to the BPL families of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under the Amrutha Jyothi programme.

A slew of measures for the welfare of SC/ST, minorities and EWS categories were announced in the budget.

“An incentive of ₹2 lakh is being provided to the students of STs who obtain admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management, Indian Institute of Science, National Institutes of Technology, and other national education institutes. The incentive amount will be increased to ₹4 lakh from the next fiscal year,” announced Bommai.

Ahead of the Assembly polls, the Bommai government also increased the supply of rice under PDS by 1 kg.

“A grant of ₹4,000 crore has been provided in the year 2023-24 to provide an additional 1 kg of rice along with 5 kg of food grains being provided under NFSA for each beneficiary,” said Bommai.

With this, BPL cardholders will get 6 kg of rice from the next fiscal year.

The government also gave approval for constructing houses for 5,188 Pouranoukaras in the state, where 3,733 houses have been completed.

“In the current year, under the ‘Poura Asare’ scheme, it is proposed to construct houses for 5,000 houseless Pouranoukaras at a cost of ₹300 crore,” said Bommai.

Stipend for unemployed youths

“Under a new scheme ‘Badukuva Daari’, for the youth who for various reasons could not continue education after school, a monthly stipend of ₹1,500 will be provided to obtain Job Oriented Certificate Training of three months,” announced Bommai.

“A monthly apprentice allowance of ₹1,500 will be provided for three months to those who complete this training,” he added.

“For the youth who could not get employment even after three years of completing the degree education, to encourage them to participate in competitive examinations, under a new scheme “Yuvasnehi”, a one-time financial assistance of ₹2,000 per person will be provided,” he said.