Following the presentation of the fifth and last full Budget of the incumbent government on Thursday, the state government of Kerala is now ready with its second budget.
Presented by Thomas Isaac, the state Finance Minister, over a long session of two hours and 40 minutes, the budget focused on different areas which included special fund allocations for the employment sector, post-Ockhi rehabilitation, extensive hunger-eradication projects and dedicated welfare schemes for women and SC/ST communities, amidst other development projects.
Here’s all you need to know about the Kerala Budget 2018:
1. An allocation of ₹2000 crore has been made for coastal areas in the state which were ravaged by cyclone Ockhi last year. An additional ₹150 crore has been earmarked for the sustainable green development of coastal areas. The minister has also mentioned that a loan of ₹584 crore for port development would be sanctioned.
2. Taking a cue from various district-level hunger alleviation initiatives like Operation Sulaimani in Kozhikode and the recent ‘Numma Oonu’ in Kochi, the FM has assigned ₹20 crore to implement a state-wide scheme —encompassing both urban and rural areas—with the aim of eliminating hunger from the state. The minister reportedly stated that by the time his five-year government comes to an end, no one in Kerala would spend a day without food.
3. The severe state of the farmers has also been addressed in the annual budget. As different regions in the state were adversely hit by drought, a total of ₹85 crore has been set aside for various farmer-centric initiatives which include crop-quality enhancement, quality seed development and organic farming promotion.
4. The medical sector has also been given special focus with an allocation of ₹1685 crore for public health services. Under the scheme, the Malabar Cancer Centre is to be upgraded to the status of Regional Cancer Centre (RCC).
5. Besides employing more doctors and nurses in government medical colleges, district and taluk hospitals are to be equipped with dedicated cardiothoracic (heart) departments and trauma-care centres, respectively. Also, an ambulance service, which will be similar to Uber, is in the pipeline.
6. With the aim of putting a final end to the inhumane practice of manual scavenging in the state, the minister announced that a robot developed by a Kozhikode resident would be employed across the state to clean sewers and manholes.
7. Laying particular emphasis on the welfare of women, the government is allocating ₹1267 crore to different women-centric schemes that are in the incubation state, which constitutes 13.6 percent of the total budget. From ‘She-lodge,’ a temporary housing for working women in Kochi to ₹50 crore for measures to prevent attacks on women, Isaac added that ₹2000 hike for ASHA workers has been included in the budget.
8. The government also envisions popularising poultry farming in every village panchayat by roping in the self-help group of Kudumbashree, which has provided sustainable livelihoods for lakhs of women in the state.
An allocation of ₹200 crore for the SHG is also part of the budget.
9. With the aim of empowering the SC/ST communities in the state, a massive ₹2859 crore is to be routed for various schemes initiatives in their welfare, and an amount of ₹10 crore has been assigned for the welfare of transgenders.
10. The government also aims to boost various cottage industries in the state and has apportioned a budget of ₹150 crore, ₹10 crore, ₹54.45 crore and ₹19 crore for coir, bamboo, cashew, and khadi industries respectively.
11. Acknowledging the vast inflow of remittances into the state from NRIs, especially from the Gulf countries, the government is instating different welfare programmes for the benefit of NRIs and has allocated ₹80 crore for the same. Additionally, a fund of ₹16 crore has been demarcated for the compatriots stuck in difficult or perilous situations in foreign countries.
12. Educational institutions across the state have been allocated funds for different schemes. A total of ₹376 crore has been earmarked for initiatives like the renovation of bud schools, equipping schools with computer labs and overall digitisation of schools in the state.
13. Some of the other features of the budget include assured payment of pensions for KSRTC employees, gas connections in every town through which the GAIL pipeline passes, 52 railway over-bridges in the state, and complete implementation of Endosulfan package with an initial allocation of ₹50 crore.
14. Jails and its inmates across the state also will be benefiting from the budget as an amount of ₹14.5 crore has been routed for prison renovation. As for the welfare of the prisoners, 50 percent of the revenue generated by jails will be utilised for the purpose.
15. The government also plans to increase the tax on alcohol consumption in the state, hoping that it will help bring down the prevalent alcoholism issue in Kerala. Also, monetary aid for marriages has been raised from ₹10,000 to ₹40,000 along with a budget of ₹2500 crore routed for the Life Housing scheme in the state.