Welfare measures galore in Kerala budget

Allocations include Rs25b for the Life Mission project to construct homes for the homeless

Thiruvananthapuram: A day after Indian federal finance minister Arun Jaitley rolled out sops for the farming sector in the national budget, Kerala finance minister T.M. Thomas Isaac presented the state budget for 2018-19, with a slew of social welfare measures.

In his usual style, the economist-turned-politician interspersed his budget speech with quotes and poetry, and did not forget to blame the federal Bharatiya Janata Party government for some of the financial constraints that the state is facing.

Among the highlights of Isaac’s budget, presented in the state assembly on Friday, were allocations of Rs25 billion (Dh1.43 billion) to the Life Mission project to construct homes for the homeless, Rs20 billion for a coastal zone package in the backdrop of the Ockhi cyclone damage, and Rs12.67 billion for women’s welfare.

He chose not to raise pension rates and the budget proposed to eliminate the undeserving among the pension recipients from the pension rolls.

However, the finance minister refused to bite the bullet regarding a decisive decision about the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, which is running up massive losses. Estimates say that the corporation is making a loss of nearly Rs2 billion per month. The corporation’s pension payments have been delayed for months and the pensioners are on strike.

Isaac shied away from any decisive announcements about the corporation, and for a second successive year hoped that the corporation could be turned around. He has proposed that the KSRTC take a loan from a consortium of banks and then repay that loan and existing debts from future operational profits.

In the backdrop of cancer being widely reported across the state, the minister proposed a comprehensive cancer treatment scheme, and announced oncology departments in all medical colleges.

The finance minister also raised the land tax, bringing it to the level that prevailed in 2015, hoping to raise Rs1 billion through that move.

The minister has also proposed that all those who have registered their luxury vehicles outside the state and are using it in Kerala, re-register it in Kerala before April.

A number of VIPs including actor-MP Suresh Gopi and actress Amala Paul have been entangled in the vehicle registration issue after the motor vehicles department alleged that they had registered their vehicles in Pondicherry where lower rates prevail, and were using them in Kerala.

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