Bengaluru: The Karnataka government has announced a £161 million relief package to help stimulate economic activity in the state and to compensate for the loss of livelihoods. As part of the package, the government has decided to pay Rs 25,000 per hectare up to a maximum of one hectare. Sixty thousand washermen (dhobis) and 2,30,000 barbers would also be given a one-time compensation of Rs 5,000. Also 775,000 autorickshaw and taxi drivers will also be given Rs 5,000 each as a one-time relief.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa made these announcements while addressing a press conference. He said the monthly fixed charges of electricity bills for MSMEs, who have suffered huge production losses due to the lockdown, will be waived for two months. Electricity consumers of all categories, the CM said, would be given incentive and concessions if they pay the bill in time. No electricity connections would be disconnected till the end of June for consumers who have not paid their bills, the CM added.
Weavers were also given a package with £10.9 million being set apart for weavers’ loan waiver schemes. Also 54,000 handloom weavers in the state would get Rs 2,000 each as a one-time measure. Pointing out that there are 15,80,000 registered building workers in the state, Yediyurappa said they would get Rs 5,000 each as a one-time assistance.
To fund all these relief measures, the state has hiked liquor prices by 11%. This hike comes on the back of a 6% hike which was announced in the budget earlier, bringing the total hike on retail liquor prices by 17%.
Siddaramaiah, leader of the opposition in Karnataka assembly, criticised the package as being completely inadequate and said that at least half of the losses suffered by farmers should be compensated. “Government should come forward and buy the vegetables, fruits and flowers grown by the farmers. The Rs 10,000 per acre compensation does not suffice even to spray pesticides on them. Also what about tanners, road side vendors, carpenters and others? It is unfortunate that the government has not done anything for large sections of the society which are suffering.”
KPCC President DK Shivakumar also lashed out at the government for announcing ‘meagre and inadequate compensation package.’ He also demanded that a special assembly session be called to discuss the challenges faced by the public and how to address that. Reacting to this demand, Yediyurappa said that he is meeting a delegation of Congress leaders who have sought his time in the next few days and thus there was no need for any special session.
Beneficiaries welcome package:
The beneficiaries, meanwhile, welcomed the relief package. Taxi and auto drives have been out of work since March. "The lockdown has been very difficult for us. There is no money at home. There are children at home. I have had a heart operation. I don't have money for medicine. That is why I am out. If I do get the Rs 5,000, it would really help. It made me happy to hear that," an auto driver said. Madha, a construction worker said: "They said they are giving money. But we have got nothing." Migrant labourers, whose plight has been in focus, may also not receive this monetary help.