Kerala This Week: State Budget Focuses on Futuristic Measures, Union Budget Criticised for Refusing Key Demands
Image credit: Lokmat
The state Budget presented on February 1 has focussed on futuristic aspects while attempting to increase its own tax revenues. More funds are being earmarked for education, health, local self governments (LSG), social security pension, and exploration of new generation technologies.
The Union Budget, however, has failed to impress the state government and political parties due to the neglect of the demands placed before the Union government. The reduction in funds for MGNREGA and public health has been specifically denounced by the ruling and opposition parties.
Kerala has recorded a 5% increase in the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education as per the All India Survey for Higher Education (AISHE). The state now ranks third in the country on college density as well.
The controversy over the K R Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts continues with more faculty members resigning from the institute after renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan resigned as the chairman of the institute.
A tiger, which posed threats to the residents in Wayanad district was found dead, with a noose around its neck on February 1. The human-animal conflict is continuing in the state, while residents are calling for immediate solutions to protect cattle, crops, and human lives.
NewsClick brings a round-up of the happenings across Kerala during the week.
The Budget presented by Finance Minister K N Balagopal of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has set sights on the long-term prospects of the state while continuing to focus on public spending. A large chunk of the allocations has been sanctioned to the LSG, public health, and education.
The government has allocated Rs 2,000 crores for market intervention to control prices of essentials, while traditional sectors like rubber, cashew, and coir have received due attention. The Budget also allocated funds for improving IT infrastructure and graphene research parks.
The banking and industrial bodies have welcomed the Budget, foreseeing growth and progress.
The hike in cess on petrol, diesel and liquor, however, has led to protests from the opposition parties. The United Democratic Front (UDF) led by the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has opposed the hike in cess and other charges of services.
The state leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] also has raised concerns over the hike and the ensuing opposition. Read more
‘UNION BUDGET NEGLECTED KERALA’
The ruling and opposition parties have jointly condemned the neglect of the demands of the state in the Union Budget. Major demands of the state, including All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), infrastructure projects including Silverline projects, and support to traditional industries did not find a mention in the Union Budget presented by Nirmala Sitharaman.
Key fiscal demands, including a change in fiscal deficit norms, an increased share of GST for states, and an extension of GST compensation, and revenue deficit grants were rejected by the Union government. The chief minister claimed that the Budget was ‘regionally unbalanced’.
INCREASE IN GER, COLLEGE DENSITY
The GER from the state, of students enrolling in higher education courses in the age group of 18-23 has increased from 38.8% in 2019-20 to 43.2% in the current year. The national average GER stands at 27.3%. The state has targeted to achieve 75% GER in another 10 years.
The enrolment among the students from the Scheduled Castes (SC) has increased from 26.7% to 33.7% and it rose from 24% to 29.1% among the students from Scheduled Tribes (ST).
The density of the colleges in the state has also increased, making it rank third, next only to Karnataka and Telangana. These states have 62 and 53 colleges per lakh population, while Kerala has 50 now.
CONTROVERSY OVER THE FILM INSTITUTE CONTINUES
The director of the KRNNIVSA, Shankar Mohan, resigned following communal discrimination against the staff and violation of reservation in the admission process. The chairman of the institute, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, also resigned within a few days, stating that the director was insulted.
While Adoor claimed that none of the conservancy workers was from the SC community during his press meet following the resignation, media reports emerged of at least one member belonging to the community and had reported caste discrimination.
A few other members of the staff, including the dean of the institute, have put in their papers following the controversy. Faculty members from the department of audiography, cinematography and administration have submitted their resignations.
HUMAN-ANIMAL CONFLICT IN WAYANAD
The residents of Koleri village in Wayanad district were complaining about the presence of a tiger in the locality. A calf was found dead on January 30 and the people suspected the tiger’s attack to be the reason. People blocked the roads in protest carrying the carcass of the killed calf and demanded compensation.
A tiger was found dead with a noose around its neck on February 1, suspected to be one of the tigers creating fear in the locality. The Forest Department has confirmed people's suspicions and referred the body to postmortem considering the cause of the death. The carcass was found on a private plantation.
SIDDIQUE KAPPAN RELEASED
Journalist Siddque Kappan was released from prison after two years. He was lodged in a prison in Uttar Pradesh after being detained while travelling to Hathras to report on the rape and murder of a girl belonging to the SC community in October 2020.
He was arrested in a case filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Though the High Court granted bail on December 23, 2022, the process of release was delayed due to a delay in the verification of documents and the winter holidays of the district court.
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