Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac today tabled the last Budget of the CPM led-LDF ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections. This was the longest budget speech in the Kerala Assembly that lasted 3 hours and 18 minutes.
"This budget lays out the future course of development for Kerala. It builds Kerala towards a knowledge economy with employment generation, especially for women. It's no wooly plan, but concrete steps presented to the people. This will also be reflected in our manifesto," Thomas Isaac told the media, referring to the upcoming assembly elections.
Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala however slammed the budget as a "series of announcements, aimed at the elections".
Starting with the state government efforts to fight COVID-19, the Finance Minister has assured the creation of 8 lakh employment opportunities in 2021-22.
"Shameful that labour participation among men is at 73.5 per cent, and women at 28.5 per cent. In Kerala, 5 lakh women professionals have taken a career break, and staying home. 40 lakh educated women are outside labour, staying home, willing to work from home, near home," Mr Isaac said while stating a scheme to provide employment to at least 20 lakh people through digital platform within 5 years. Registrations will be starting in February.
"75 per cent of these would be women as beneficiaries since significantly larger percentage of educated women are outside labour force," the Finance Minister's office stated.
The Budget also focuses on crime-mapping by local bodies with an ambitious aim of reducing crime against women by 25 per cent.
Mr Isaac spoke about laptops to be provided to children from fisherfolk, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, antyodaya households at half the cost. And with 25 per cent subsidy for other BPL families. The budget speech assured affordable internet to all through state's flagship programme K-FON, including free access for Below Poverty Line families.
Mr Isaac also announced setting up of 30 centres for excellence within universities and 500 post-doctoral fellowships to attract best of minds.
Kerala is the first state in India to formulate an e-vehicle policy.
"To encourage use of e-vehicles, full hybrid battery electric vehicles, fuel cell electric vehicles etc these will be given 50 per cent reduction in Motor Vehicle Tax for first five years," Mr Isaac stated.
The budget also increases the allowance of ASHA workers by Rs 1,000.
"They have rendered a great service on a meagre allowance," the minister added.
Mr Isaac's Budget speech had several references to poems written by school children. He had started his speech with the poem by K Sneha, a Class 7 student of Palakkad Girls Higher Secondary School.
"...we will fight Corona and succeed. And bring back a happy dawn", Mr Isaac read lines from the poem.
The Finance Minister also applauded the efforts of all Covid warriors during the pandemic.
Ramesh Chennithala, however, said the Budget was "fooling people".
"I have put out a list if promises made by this Left government in earlier years which are yet to be implemented. This budget is also a series of announcements only. Where is the coastal management? Where is the Idukki and Wayanad packages from earlier? Promise of 25 lakh jobs made earlier? This Budget is only aiming at the coming elections," he said.