Bengaluru, Aug 15: Making special note of his status as a Covid-19 survivor on Saturday, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa acknowledged that while the virus has gravely affected every sector, there is little to fear from the disease.
Speaking at a comparatively muted 74th Independence Day celebration in Bengaluru, the Chief Minister announced that despite the challenges brought by Covid-19 and recent heavy-rains coupled with drought, that the state was proceeding in its aim of building a “welfare state,” backed by a principle of development.
"Our aim is to build a Kalyana Rajya (Welfare state) with the avowed principle of development as the only mantra. While fighting the global pandemic Covid-19, we are taking giant strides towards realizing Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of building a Ram Rajya and will practice Rajadharma in true earnest,” he said.
In fact, much of the chief minister’s speech revolved around Covid-19, which he described as a “global scourge.”
He called on people not to worry or be afraid of Covid-19 infection. “I too was infected by the coronavirus, and I have fully recovered,” he said.
However, at the same time, he pointed out that the disease had prompted an economic recession, job losses and the slashing of revenue for the government. He also defended the implementation of the lockdown.
“We had to declare a lockdown in our bid to prevent the spread of infection in the early stages of the outbreak. Because of the lockdown, economic and social activities came to a standstill,” he said.
He added that the government had eventually come to the conclusion that lockdown is “not the only solution to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.”
In addition to paying tribute to all Covid-19 warriors, including an assembled contingent of about 50 pourakarmikas from east and West Zones, the CM announced certain relief measures for those affected by the outbreak, including a Rs 3,187 cr relief package for migrant workers, daily wage workers, farmers and those dependent on floriculture, plus those employed as weavers, fisherman, construction workers, hairdressers, dhobis, taxi and autorickshaw drivers.
He also said that 1.31 cr people had been given health cards under the Ayushman Bharat scheme in Karnataka while another 8.5 lakh had been health coverage at a cost of Rs 1,694 cr. “The government has taken all possible steps to ensure quality healthcare for its people,” he said.
Yediyurappa expressed optimism that several schemes and projects would “help people see a ray of hope in this hour of gloom.”
He added that his government has been giving a boost to entrepreneurs through the Industrial Facilitation Act, which he said improves the ease-of-doing business and encourages industrial development in the state. “Not just that, we have been encouraging the youth of the state to develop skills. Along with that, rules have been simplified to purchase agricultural land that is required for industrial purposes,” he said.
These policies were said to have created an opportunity for both farmers and industrialists to mutually benefit from the direct purchase of land.
He described farmers as the first and primary concern of the government. “Along with the annual Rs 6,000 assistance announced by the Union government under its Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna scheme to all eligible famers, the state gives an additional Rs 4,000 of which the first installment of Rs 2,00 has already been released,” he said, adding that the state was transferring Rs 1,000 cr in first installment to the accounts of about 50 lakh farmers.
He also said that the government had come to the rescue of farmers in distress by buying Rs 3,1765 cr worth of farm products such as green gram, tur dal, groundnut, chickpeas and copra under the minimum support price programme from 5.82 lakh farmers.
Yediyurappa added that the government has made big changes in the co-operative sector, the backbone of the agriculture economy, by giving farmers the choice to sell their produce at a market of their choice. Nevertheless, opposition parties have been critical of government’s ordinances amending land reforms, APMC and industries related laws, calling them antithetical to farmers and the working class.
Next addressing the matter of regional imbalances, Yediyurappa raised the matter of the backward Kalyana Karnataka region, where he said that airports in Bidar and Kalaburgi had started operations in a bid to draw more industrial investment in the region.
“Work on setting up an airport at Shivamogga has gathered pace. The government has given administrative approval to launch work on the Karwar and Vijayapura airports,” he added.
Infrastructure developments will also take place in Bengaluru, the Chief Minister said.
These, he added, include carving out green spaces across 400 kilometers of primary canals, in addition to making new bicycle and pedestrian lanes next the bund. He added that in the first stage, stretching from the historic Raja Kaaluve canal, from Dharamanbudhi Lake to Bellandur Lake will be kick-started with the construction of 36-kms of walking and cycling tracks.
Mentioning the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Davos, Switzerland, Yediyurappa said he had canvased 40 multinational companies to invest in Karnataka. He claimed that despite the Covid-19 crisis, that the government had approved 101 industrial projects worth Rs 27,000 crore at the state level.
The subdued Independence Day celebration which wrapped up after the CM’s speech lacked the usual crowds and contingents of marching schoolchildren which marked previous year’s events.
In his concluding remarks, the Chief Minister praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the construction of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. He added that Karnataka plans to build a Yatrinivas in Ayodhya for devotees from Karnataka who travel there.