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Kerala Budget Cover: It’s a Political Message, We Won’t Forget Who Murdered Gandhi, says Thomas Isaac

Newsclick/PTI |
Breaking from tradition, the cover of Kerala government’s budget documents shows an oil painting by Tom Vattakuzhy capturing the moment after Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu supremacist, on January 30, 1948.
Kerala Budget 2020

New Delhi: Resonating with the current polarised atmosphere in the country that has not spared even the vilification of Mahatma Gandhi, the cover of the Kerala Budget broke the traditional look of a government document, publishing a painting of Gandhi’s assassination.

On Friday, Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac, while presenting the budget for 2020-21, said the oil painting depicted on the cover of the budget documents was by Tom Vattakuzhy capturing the moment after Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu supremacist, on January 30, 1948.

In fact, Isaac’s speech was politically loaded, when he said that the entire Kerala was united against the Bharatiya Janata Party led Central government’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which discriminates against Muslims.

Isaac said the painting, ‘Death of Gandhi’, was meant to send a message to the Centre.  


"The message is: Yes, we remember. That Mahatma was murdered, murdered by Hindu communalists who are revered today by the ruling party and the central government," Isaac told mediapersons. "We are saying: 'We will remember it, people will not forget',” he was quoted as saying by NDTV.  

The Kerala government, run by the Left Democratic Front, was the first to pass resolution rejected the CAA and saw a unique act of unity with the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front, backing the resolution. So far, five state governments have passed resolutions against CAA, amid widespread protests across the country.

"The kind of tensions this central government is generating is something you cannot ignore. For them, the National Register of Citizens is the biggest and most urgent reform required to be implemented. It is divisive, aimed at dividing the population along communal lines. Therefore, it is only proper that the budget be prefaced with the communal challenge that Kerala will face," he told reporters.

Budget Raises Fair Value of Land, Hikes Welfare Pension

The LDF government’s budget raised the fair value of land and motor vehicle tax to mobilise resources of Rs 1,103 crore, even as it raised all welfare pensions and allocated enhanced share for pro-women schemes, according to PTI.

A total of 2.5 lakh new water connections, 1,000 cost-effective food courts providing meals at Rs 25, one lakh, new houses/flats for homeless people by 2020-21 and 'she-lodge' enterprises in all cities were among the popular announcements in the state budget

Presenting his fifth budget for the 2020-21 fiscal, Isaac announced Rs 2,000 crore and Rs 1,000 crore worth special packages for flood-hit high ranges-- Wayanad and Idukki-- respectively.

The minister set aside Rs 1,000 crore for coastal area development and Rs 2,400 crore for the second Kuttanad package, eyeing the development of the 'rice bowl' of the southern state.

A total of Rs 200 crore additional revenue was expected through this measure, Isaac said.

Another Rs 250 crore was planned to be mobilised by making an increase of 10 per cent in the existing fair value of land and hiking the fair value of notified land near large-scale projects at a maximum of 30%.

"The expected gain in GST collection has not been materialised....recession has also adversely affected tax collection. It is expected that there will be a shortfall of Rs 10,113 crore in the anticipated tax income of this year," Isaac said.

Even amid the cash-strapped position, the Left minister showed special attention to enhance various welfare pensions, given by the government.

"The previous government had disbursed Rs 9,311 crore for welfare pensions. Now, on completion of its fourth year, the LDF government has crossed Rs 22,000 crore.

Social security pension has been given to 13 lakh old age people...all welfare pensions are enhanced to Rs 1,300 (which is Rs 1,200 now)," the minister said.

Against Rs 760 crore during the year 2016-17, the total outlay for schemes for women was enhanced to Rs 1,506 crore in the present budget, which is 7.3% of the plan outlay, Isaac said.

In his two-and-half hour budget speech, Isaac attacked the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre for reducing central assistance and excluding the southern state from flood relief assistance of 2019.

Alleging that the aim of the Centre's economic policy was to "strangle" the state government financially, he said the state's borrowing limit had been reduced besides central grants cut short.

The state's share of GST compensation for December was yet to be paid, besides huge amount was pending to be released from centrally sponsored schemes.

There will be a total shortfall of Rs 8,330 crore in the central assistance, including loans, for January, February and March 2020 and this has put unprecedented financial constraints on the state exchequer, the minister said. The cumulative deficit at the end of the year was pegged at Rs 98.80 crore, the minister added.

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