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Siddaramaiah announces free LPG gas, universal health scheme in budget

In his pre-assembly election budget for 2018-19, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday announced schemes for universal health coverage, providing free LPG gas connections and mitigating miseries of dry land farmers. The chief minister also said the implementation of the sixth pay commission for 5.93 lakh state government employees and 5.73 lakh pensioners would cost Rs 10,508 crore to the exchequer. The commission has recommended 30 per cent hike in the salary structure and with increase in pay and other steps to increase productivity and efficiency, the government would be in a better position to implement its welfare measures, he said. Siddaramaiah, who holds the finance portfolio, announced a scheme to waive loan of up to Rs one lakh taken by a farmer member from a primary agricultural credit cooperative society on his death. No fresh levies were announced in the Budget, which proposed an increase in rates of additional excise duty on Indian-Made Liquor by eight per cent, depending on the slabs. The ‘Arogya Karnataka Yojana’ (universal health coverage), to be launched this month, would be implemented across the state by the end of this year.

The scheme will make available primary, and specific secondary and tertiary treatments to all people. Over 9,000 health and wellness centres would be set up by upgrading existing sub-centres for every 5,000 population in rural areas during the next seven years for providing high quality comprehensive primary health care services, he said. A total budgetary allocation of Rs 6,645 crore has been made for the health and family welfare department. The announcement comes close on the heels of what was touted as the world’s largest public health scheme to cover 10 crore families unveiled in the Union Budget.

In an apparent move to counter the Centre’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme, Siddaramaiah announced that under the ‘Mukhyamantri Anila Bhagya Yojana’, free gas connection with twin burner stove and two refills would be provided to 30 lakh beneficiaries with an expenditure of Rs 1,350 crore. The scheme comes against the backdrop of sharp differences between the Siddaramaiah government and the Centre over the implementation of Ujjwala scheme. Siddaramaiah also unveiled ‘Raitha Belaku’, a scheme to give direct income assistance to mitigate miseries of dry land farmers.

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