Kerala presents please-all budget as local body polls near

Thiruvananthapuram, March 5 (IANS) There are sops galore in the Kerala budget for the year 2010-11 as polls to the local bodies are round the corner.

Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, who presented his fifth straight budget Friday, set aside Rs.500 crore to provide rice at Rs.two per kg to all labourers in the unorganized sector and to families who have completed a minimum of 50 days of work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

Welfare pension was hiked to Rs.300 a month. He provided an extra Rs.300 to those challenged persons confined to bed. The monthly grant for inmates of orphanages, old-age poor homes has been raised by Rs.50 to Rs.250.

And to please women, he almost doubled the allocation for schemes benefiting them from Rs.318 crore last year to Rs.620 crore. Likewise, the ‘Kudumbashree’ programme got a hefty hike when he gave Rs.50 crore, up from Rs.30 crore last year.

For infrastructure development, Isaac set aside Rs.1,000 crore for building the Kannur Airport – the fourth international airport in the state.

He also gave the nod for setting up a joint venture company for a rapid rail corridor project to connect the northern and southern tips of the state.

Also, Rs.125 crore have been set aside to start eight public sector undertakings.

Isaac raised allocation for the IT sector by 73 per cent to touch Rs.412 crore. This includes development of IT parks in five districts.

‘The Smart City at Kochi will be implemented. Unfortunately, the project is getting delayed due to demands raised by TEECOM (Smart City Dubai) which were not there in the original agreement. Infopark Kochi will initiate a project which will generate one lakh jobs for which 150 acres of land will be acquired by this month,’ he said.

He also brought down luxury tax from the present 10 and 15 per cent to 7.5 and 12.5 per cent for the tourism industry which is under stres due to the global recession.

And bringing cheer to beer and wine drinkers, the tax was reduced by 10 per cent, but he pinched the liquor tipplers by increasing the tax by 10 per cent.

Understandably, the budget showed a revenue deficit of Rs.3,629.55 crore.

And as expected, the opposition Congress party called the budget ‘lacklustre’. ‘This is an irresponsible budget and moreover, several schemes that were announced in the last budget continue to remain in paper,’ said Oommen Chandy, Leader of Opposition.

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