Kerala Budget Session Begins With Policy Address
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan being welcomed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan as Assembly Speaker A.N. Shamseer looks on during the Budget Session of Kerala Assembly, in Thiruvananthapuram, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Image Courtesy:PTI
The eighth session of the 15th Kerala Legislative Assembly (KLA) began on Monday with the customary policy address of governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who stuck to the constitutional duty of presenting the speech prepared by the state government despite the sore relationship.
The speech included the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s achievements, including economic growth, industrial development, empowering local self-governments (LSGs), poverty alleviation, education, infrastructure and healthcare.
The thrust on ensuring houses for all under the Livelihood Inclusion and Financial Empowerment Scheme and digital governance were also mentioned.
The attack on federalism and democratic values was also criticised in the address, which also flayed the Union government for setting different benchmarks for borrowing limits.
The Congress-led Opposition block United Democratic Front (UDF) boycotted the proceedings. The Budget will be presented on February 3 while the Assembly will be in session for 33 days till March 30 with holidays in between.
Kerala has made rapid strides in the industrial sector with more than 1 lakh micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) set up in the nine months of 2022-23 as part of the Year of Enterprises’.
“The grievance redressal mechanism, centralised inspection system and timely licence approval mechanism for MSMEs and non-MSMEs have enabled us to make great strides in investment facilitation,” Khan said.
Despite the economic slowdown due to COVID-19, the state has registered economic growth of 12% at constant prices and 17% at current prices. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) report has credited the state for its Innovation Index, addressing environmental concerns and providing wide social security.
The Year of Enterprise scheme was selected for the best practices award while the ‘Vayoshreshtha Samman 2021’ was also presented to the state by the ministry of social justice and empowerment for providing better care to the elderly.
FOCUS ON TECHNOLOGY, POVERTY ALLEVIATION
The government has been focussing on technology enabled facilities for the public through LSGs. The state government’s Navakerala Mission had assured to focus on digital and technological progress besides improving scientific temper, production and employment for the youth.
“Integrated Local Government Management System has been operationalised at all the gram panchayats of the state. The K-SMART application for urban local bodies will be rolled out by April 1, 2023,” Khan added.
Kerala has the lowest poverty rate in the country with 0.7% of the population, i.e. 64,006, living in extreme poverty. The government, in collaboration with LSGs and Kudumbashree, is working towards eradicating poverty.
The state government constructed 3,22,922 houses and four multi-storeyed complexes through the LIFE mission till January 15. During the 2019 Assembly elections, the UDF had scrapped the project, which aims to provide houses for all.
‘UPHOLD FEDERAL PRINCIPLES’
Kerala has been raising its concerns on the centralisation of powers by the BJP-led Union government. The LDF government has called for better state autonomy, secularism and plural values.
“Hegemonic tendencies in religious, linguistic and other arenas hamper building of a robust democracy, which respects diversity for strengthening its unity,” the policy address read.
With the implementation of the goods and services tax, state governments are struggling to meets their needs to ensure welfare measures and developing infrastructure. While the Union government is restricting the borrowing limits of the states, the policy address accused it of setting different benchmarks for itself.
Taking note of the pending assent for Bills passed by the Assembly and the Centre enacting Bills without consultation with states on subjects, the address read, “Incursions into the legislative domain of the states do not augur well for a cooperative federal set-up.”
Despite being at loggerheads with the government, the governor did not fuel any controversy over the address. Earlier, reports emerged of the government deciding to skip the governor’s address. The UDF accused the LDF of striking a compromise with Khan, which was rejected by the state government.
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