Resurgent Public Sector, Lakhs of New Jobs Mark Two Years of LDF Govt
Image Courtesy : NDTV
LDF Government Takes Its Achievements to the People
The Left Democratic Front of Kerala, headed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan completed two years of rule in the state this year. On this occasion, the government released a Progress Report that comprehensively states the policies implemented, the timelines adhered to, and the advancements made since the government came into power. The Two Year Progress Report was written in a manner that addressed all 600 proposals forwarded in the manifesto. The first year’s progress report spoke about the 35 most important categories into which the 600 proposals were divided. This year’s report is written in comparison to the election manifesto of the LDF when it campaigned in 2016 to help people analyse the performance of the government in the past two years.
(Read the original Malayalam version of the report here)
Revival of the Public Sector
One of the foremost promises made during the election campaign was to revive the public sector that had been plundered by the former UPA government and the neo-liberal policies of the central government. Under the watch of this government, Travancore Titanium Products Ltd, Travancore Cochin Chemicals Ltd, Transformers And Electricals Kerala Limited, Traco cables, Steel & Industrial Forgings Limited, and The Kerala Minerals & Metals Ltd. became profitable. In the year 2015-16, before the LDF government came into power, net loss in the public sector was a whopping Rs.131.87 crores. By the end of the last financial year, however, the loss had come down to Rs.80.67 crores with 14 public sector units becoming profitable. As of now, the public sector is making a gross profit of Rs.106.91 crores and this is a huge leap forward in the short span of two years. In comparison to the last financial year, PSUs such as the KMML and the TTP have increased their profits by 6 and 3 times, respectively, reaching an all-time high. “It is the comprehensive intervention by the government to turn the PSUs profitable which led to the historic achievement of the Industries Department”, said AC Moideen, the Industries Minister. “The government adopted a professional approach for the renovation of the companies”, he further said.
The first point raised in LDF’s election manifesto was the creation of 25 lakh jobs for the people of Kerala within the period of 5 years. Out of this, 10 lakh jobs were to be created for the educated youth in the IT and Tourism sector, while an additional 15 lakh jobs were to be provided in the fields of agriculture, commerce, small scale industries, and construction. In this front, the government clearly stated in the report, that when it came into power, the office space available for the IT sector in Kerala was 1.7 crore sq. feet. The government, since then took measures and signed deals to increase the overall space available by another 1 crore sq. feet. This monumental increase would certainly help with being able to provide the 10 lakh jobs they had promised in the manifesto. By the end of the first year, around 2,13,745 jobs were already created in various fields excluding Tourism, Electronics and IT related sectors. Additionally, the projects such as Amballur Electronic Hardware, Light Engineering Park, Palakkad, Mega Food Park, Cherthala, Petrochemical Park, and Ernakulam are confirmed to create another 2 lakh jobs as they near completion this year.
The promotion of start-up industries and allocation of funds for their support and incubation was a primary agenda in the manifesto. In the last two years, the government has analysed around 1300 start-up projects out of which 125 have received financial support ranging from packages of Rs.2 lakhs to Rs.15 lakhs per project. The start-up known as Genrobotics had earlier garnered international attention and laurels for developing the robot named BANDICOOT to clean manholes and to forever eliminate the inhumane practice of manual scavenging in India.
Labour Policy Changes
As per the new Kerala State Labour Policy, the revised minimum wage for all sectors is fixed at Rs.600 per day. This is the highest minimum wage rate in the entire country. The policy also paves way for the complete eradication of child labour in the country. The policy focuses on the issue of gender neutrality in work environment. In organizations where there are women workers, a ‘crèche cess’ will be collected and crèches will be started in association with the Social Justice Department. The policy envisages a pro-active intervention of the state to ensure proper lodging facilities while travelling, overtime remuneration, weekly leaves, rest intervals etc. for female labourers. This policy also extends its benefits to the large number of migrant workers in the state as well.
The manifesto proposes the setting up of 45,000 “high tech” classrooms in 4775 schools and orders for 60,250 laptops and 4,375 projectors for the same purpose have already been placed. Additionally, in 66 higher secondary public schools around the state, the project to revamp the vocational higher secondary curriculum to meet the national standards have begun. The state-wide teacher training programme has been instructed to include the need to inculcate and promote the talents and passions of all students in the fields of arts and sports in schools. During a time when the entire country is in a rat-race to prepare students to merely be tools for a corporate world, LDF-led Kerala is leading the way and showcasing the need for a more holistic approach to education and the need to promote co-curricular and extra-curricular activities while adhering to the high academic excellence the state has always managed to achieve.
An evaluation meeting presided over by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has decided to ensure at least 200 teaching days and 1000 teaching hours per year in the public schools of the State. The Education Rejuvenation Mission aims to raise 1000 schools to “international standards”. The very month that the Education Rejuvenation Mission began, the LDF government took over a government-aided school in Malaparamba in Kozhikode district, which its owner had tried to close down claiming that it was “uneconomical”. The move became symbolic of the efforts to protect and strengthen public education in the State. The previous Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government had decided to close down the Malaparamba school on the basis of the request from its manager, who claimed that it is “unviable” for him to run the school. The Mission also lists out school libraries and laboratories that are to be modernised, and aims to create school campuses which are free of plastics, pesticides and intoxicants. Knowledge and skills to communicate in at least three languages is also to be ensured. The mission seeks to reduce dropout rates and give special attention to students belonging to backward and marginalised sections. The LDF government's efforts to upgrade public education seem to be bearing fruit already. The academic year 2017-2018 saw an increase in the total number of students in government and government-aided schools. In Std. I alone, there was an increase of 5703 students in government schools and an increase of 6495 students in government-aided schools. In Std. V, there was an increase of 40,385 students in government and government-aided schools, while in Std. VIII, there was an increase of 30,083 students. This magnitude of increase had occurred after the gap of a decade.
Kerala has been importing their vegetables from neighbouring states for a long time now. This is an outcome of the low level of importance given to food cultivation in the state as the millennials are increasingly moving towards the service sectors. However, the LDF government’s manifesto has given huge importance to revamping the agricultural sector with a special focus on the cultivation of vegetables within the state. Within the last two years, production of vegetables in the state has gone up by 4 lakh metric tonnes. Additionally, 63 lakh households have been given vegetable packets along with needed training in order to cultivate vegetables in their own backyards. Another major promise in the manifesto was the commencement of organic farming in 50,000 hectares of land in the state. Out of this, the area under organic farming has already crossed the 16,800 hectares mark in just two years. This project further went ahead and collected the fully organic vegetables for a high price from the farmers and distributed it under the brand of ‘Kerala Organic’. The Kerala government also provides the highest price to paddy farmers in the country. Paddy is procured for Rs.2,300 per quintal while the rest of the country sees promises from the government to procure paddy at Rs.1,550 per quintal while the actual procurement is even less at Rs.900-Rs 1,000 per quintal.
The government in its health policy has advocated assured free treatment of any kind to all children below the age of 18 in government hospitals. The Ardram mission envisages locally available preventive care through early intervention by the PHCs in the case of lifestyle diseases. The ASHA workers, who have been consistently ignored by the centre, will receive a hike of Rs.2000 each for their monthly allowance. The aim of the health policy states the increase of health expenditure from the current 0.6% to 5%, with a 1% increase each year to reduce the out-of-pocket expenditure of the residents. An IMA study has found that around 500 small hospitals (run by one or two doctors) were closed down in Kerala in the last 10 years with the advent of big corporate hospitals. To counter this trend, the policy envisages tax exemption for small private hospitals that provide cheap and affordable healthcare. The state plans on setting up public or co-operative drug production centres that can manufacture generic drugs to be sold at lower prices, and for this the current Rs.40 crores medicine production unit is being upgraded to a Rs.100 crores facility. Kerala already has the lowest infant and maternal mortality rates in the country and the policy aims to further bring it down by providing antenatal and neonatal services to the few communities such as in Palakkad and Wayanad that still do not have access to them. Kerala also made headlines by becoming the first state to extend their medical insurance scheme to all migrant workers in the state to the effect of Rs.15,000 coverage in government hospitals and Rs.2 lakhs to be claimed in case of accidental death at the workplace.
Law and Order
The top priority of the LDF government was to curb the violence against women and children in the state. The successful community policing programme, Janmaithry Stations is being extended to all police stations in the state for this. The government has introduced Pink Patrol in 6 cities and Pink Beat in other cities to ensure safety of women, and an amount of Rs.6 crores was allocated in the budget to create gender awareness and to provide women friendly spaces. Steps have been initiated to increase the total percentage of women in police force to 15%. At present, women constitute 6% of the total police force. It is proposed to be increased incrementally to 25%. For the first time in the history of the state, the government is starting a Women Police Battalion. 451 new posts are being created for the same. According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, Kerala has a high crime rate. But it doesn’t mean that the law and order of the state is vulnerable. Quite on the contrary, it means that more and more crimes are being reported since police stations have become accessible to people. Moreover, Kerala also has the distinction of being the state with the highest conviction rate. This is suggestive of the better capability of the police force to prove and charge crimes more efficiently in comparison to their counterparts in the rest of the country. The law and order department has effectively thwarted many attempts by anti-social and communal elements to disrupt the peace and harmony of the state during the past two years.
Apart from these monumental strides made by the LDF government in the last two years, the state has also been the lone fort in thwarting the communal politics of the BJP and the RSS. In the social front, Kerala became the first country to formulate a transgender policy and the government has introduced free sex-reassignment surgery for transgenders in all government hospitals. The Cultural department has organized around 6000 public meetings in celebration of the social reformist Sreenarayana Guru’s proclamation “I have no caste”. Government has also taken adequate steps to get permanent venue for the internationally acclaimed IIFK and Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which had become landmark cultural events of Kerala. iIncidentally, both events were conceived and instituted by previous LDF governments. The successful commencement of the Kochi Metro Rail is another feather in the hat of the government and the humanitarian concerns of the project also needs to be highlighted. The cleaning, parking, and the distribution of tickets will be supervised by the Kudumbashree with an estimated 80% of the Metro Rail workforce being women.
The Progress Report further states clear timelines for the completion of the other major and minor programmes forwarded in the manifesto.
This Progress Report comes with another resounding victory for the LDF as the CPM regained the Chengannur seat following Monday’s assembly by-poll with the LDF candidate Saji Cherian winning with a margin of 20,956 votes over the UDF candidate while the vote share of the BJP went down from last time. The People’s Alternative of Kerala is making massive strides in all fronts and continues down on the inclusive developmental path. The LDF election manifesto slogan of “A new Kerala, Secular, Corruption-Free and Developed” is thus living up to the expectations.
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