People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXVIII

No. 05

February 02, 2014

 

KERALA BUDGET

 

Maniís Election Eyewash Fuels Price Hike

 

THE crippled Kerala government, that has been trying to balance on a razorís edge, is doing everything to woo the voters with an incessant declaration of eyewash schemes. Tat present, all the farmers, especially in the hilly regions of the state, are vigorously agitating against the governmentís timid attempt to implement the controversial Kasthurirangan committee report on Western Ghats. Scheme about income guarantee for farmers, fair returns, farmerís health insurance, agricards, crop insurance, agri corporations, loan waiver schemes etc have proved to be declarations without sufficient funds or mere illusions.

 

In the last few years, Kerala has been one of the hot spots of farmersí suicides. The pathetic situation had been reversed during the tenure of the erstwhile V S Achuthanandhan government, and the well implemented debt relief scheme had almost ended the trend of farmersí suicides. But since the innings of Omen Chandy government began, about 50 farmers have committed suicide.

 

This was the background in which, to ward off the public ire, finance minister K M Mani declared many welfare schemes for farmers in his 2013-2014 budget. Still almost all the declarations are confined to the budget papers. While Kerala is a food deficient state, the cultivation, procurement and transportation etc of paddy are in limbo here. In the last budget, the finance minister had put forward schemes like hitch farming and biofarming which have become redundant. How to increase the food production is still an unanswered question. Mere electoral gimmicks are not going to cure the malady but can only bring the state to a sad impasse.

 

While Kerala is basically a consumer state, people are facing the pain of skyrocketing price hikes. In his 2012-2013 budget, K M Mani had declared a plethora of schemes for controlling this trend, though with the oft-repeated excuse that inflation is a global phenomenon. The scheme of ďThripthi hotelsĒ was one among them; under it a man was promised to get lunch for Rs 20. but after the long period of one year, not even a single Thripthi hotel has been started in the state.

 

The public distribution system of the state was once world renowned. Apart from the ration shops, supply companies, consumer federations, Haritha etc protected the people to a great extent from the incessant price rises. But the government is reluctant to resurrect these institutions and the corporate friendly attitude of the government is expediting the crisis. The finance ministerís much-touted helping hand is not visible anywhere. At the same time, new tax proposals have ignited further price hikes. Auto taxi charges, inter-state bus charges, dresses, cooking oils, construction works etc will all be more costlier now. Although the government has minimally increased the welfare pensions, it is not commensurate with the rate of rising inflation.

 

During the tenure of the last government all the major public sector industries had become profitable. The LDF government began many new public sector ventures as well. Veteran Congress leader and defense minister A K Antony publicly praised the V S government and the then industries minister Elamaram Kareem for it. But after the accession of the UDF government the same A K Antony was compelled to denounce the industrial policies of the UDF government that is led by his own party. Pubic sector entities like the KSRTC and KSEB etc are in a lurch, with the finance minister allocating a mere Rs 150 crore for the KSRTC that is in a doldrums. The meaning is very clear: the state government is less concerned with the existence of these entities.