- Sericulture farmers in Karnataka, India’s leading raw silk producing State, are disappointed over the Union Budget’s failure to increase the customs duty on import of raw silk.
- The customs duty on imported silk, which used to be around 30 per cent a couple of years ago to ensure that the price of indigenously produced silk remained competitive in the market, had been brought down to 10 per cent, affecting a large number of sericulture farmers.
- At reduced import duty, the superior quality Chinese silk is available at a low rates, which pushes indigenously produced silk’s price further down.
- Soon after the Narendra Modi government came to power, the import duty was brought down to 5 per cent, but it was increased to 15 per cent subsequently, only to be brought down to 10 per cent.
- Not only is the cost of producing silk in China less, even the quality is superior. While Chinese raw silk, having a longer unbroken filament than Indian silk, is available at Rs. 3,000 a kg, indigenously produced silk varies from Rs. 2,100 to Rs. 2,400 a kg. At current prices, the decrease in import duty from 30 per cent to 10 per cent has made Chinese silk cheaper by Rs. 600
- However, a large number of weavers and power looms in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat are dependent on Chinese silk for manufacture of silk products including garments.
Rural poor to get MNREGA assistance to build homes
- Homeless rural residents of Karnataka will now get additional funds to build their houses.
- In a first for the country, the State government has decided to dovetail funds meant for subsidised housing schemes under various departments with the MNREGA scheme that pays the wages of individuals, who work to build their homes.
- Till now, three different subsidised housing schemes under the housing and rural development departments paid around Rs. 40,000 to each poor beneficiary in three to four instalments. Now, they will get an additional Rs. 20,000 under MNREGA as wages for the person-days they spend on construction of the house. This is estimated to provide Rs. 520 crore to 2.6 lakh beneficiaries of housing schemes in 6,068 gram panchayats.
- This new concept will help the rural poor as it releases around Rs. 500 crore in the next 100 days
- A target of at least 50 beneficiaries per gram panchayat. Work orders are to be issued before the last week of March and work should be completed in three months.
- There is no chance of diversion of funds as every rupee is electronically transferred to the beneficiary’s account every 14 days. Gram panchayat officials can draw money directly from a central account after due certification.
- It will boost rural spending and help utilise funds from the central scheme by changing gears
- Pace of work on housing schemes in some district has been slow. It is expected to pick up as the works will be reviewed repeatedly by senior officials of the Panchayat Raj and Housing Department
- The pace of work on these schemes is generally lower in the HK region compared to other revenue divisions. Special emphasis will be laid in this region
IT ecosystem in state
- IT exports from Karnataka are expected to net Rs. 2.2 lakh crore in 2015-16 and direct employment in the sector will be around 10 lakh, as per the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), a trade association of Indian Information Technology estimates
- Bengaluru is the only Indian city to be ranked among the best 20 startup ecosystems across the world, as per the Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report 2015.
- The IT capital is home to around 4,000 active tech startups and the government has set up a warehouse in Bengaluru in association with NASSCOM
Petition to SC on disadvantaged position of Kannada
- Arguing that the government could not impose Hindi on the people of Karnataka, a Bengaluru-based social activist told the Supreme Court that public money was being wasted in the State on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign as people were not able to understand what the campaign’s hoardings and slogans in Hindi meant.
- A Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur heard a petition by H. Satish Halappa against forcing Hindi or English on the poor of the State.
- Mr. Halappa said such compulsion was discriminatory and a violation of the people’s rights to use their own language. This, especially when Karnataka had declared Kannada as its official language under the Karnataka Official Language Act, way back in 1963.
- It was argued that students were left disadvantaged as they were forced to take competitive exams in Hindi or English and not in their mother tongue. Even the Railways used Hindi or English for the tickets issued within the State in violation of Article 345 of the Constitution.
- “The Kannada language is losing its primacy in the State due to the dominant use of languages like Hindi in a State where Kannada is spoken and understood by the majority”, the petition contended.
- Part XVII of the Constitution deals with the official language in Articles 343 to 351
- Under Article 343 Hindi written in Devanagari script is to be the Official language of the Union. The parliament passed the Official Language Act in 1963. The act provides for the continued use of English (even after 1965), in addition to Hindi, for all official purposes of the Union and also for the transaction of business in Parliament
- Under Article 345 the legislature of a state may adopt any one or more of the languages in use in the state or Hindi as the official language of that state. Until that is done, English is to continue as official language of that state.
- Under this provision, Karnataka adopted the Kannada as its official language.
- The Official Language Act (1963) lays down that English should be used for purposes of communication between the Union and the non-Hindi states (that is, the states that have not adopted Hindi as their official language).