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Self-destruct government

EducationWorld March 2024 | Magazine Postscript

The Congress government of Karnataka which was unexpectedly elected to power in the state legislative assembly election of 2023, is destroying the future of this high-potential state (pop. 67 million) by populist pandering. As soon as it was sworn into power last summer, it set about fulfilling five promises it had somewhat recklessly announced in its election manifesto, viz, Rs.2,000 monthly assistance to women heads of all families, 200 units of free electricity to all households, Rs.3,000 every month for unemployed graduates and Rs.1,500 for diploma holders, 10 kg rice per person per month and free travel for women in state public transport buses. The total outlay for these freebies is likely to exceed Rs.50,000 crore per year, a substantial sum for the government whose annual budget expenditure in 2023-24 aggregated Rs.3 lakh crore. This explains reduced capital expenditure in the state’s Budget presented to the legislative assembly and the public on February 16.

The state government’s latest manifestation of runaway populism was its indulgent tolerance of several mobs that rampaged through Bangalore on December 27, breaking doors, windows, and damaging shops, pubs and restaurants. Business establishments were targeted for failure to inscribe their institutional names in Kannada — the dominant language of the state — on their display signboards. Instead of prosecuting the vandals for damaging private property, the state government has caved in to the demand of the state’s language chauvinists. On February 20, a Bill to this effect was passed in the legislative assembly.

Evidently, populist chief minister Siddaramaiah is unaware that such vandalism and interference with private property is likely to scare away domestic and foreign investors in a state which is the most favoured destination for foreign investment. The hapless people of Karnataka have voted in a populist government expert at harakiri.

Also read: Former Karnataka CM urges Siddaramaiah to reconsider decision to scrap NEP

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