Yet again it is the time of Onam, which reminds us of a time when humanity lived in equality without differentiations, and Bakrid, which makes us remember the importance of love, brotherhood and sacrifice.
It may be sheer coincidence that the Left Democratic Front government is entering into its 100th day during this happy occasion, when Malayalis are preparing to celebrate this festival of prosperity. However, it seems that there is a meaningful propriety in it.
We have been entrusted with this responsibility of governance because of the great faith the people of Kerala have bestowed on us. At the outset, let me reiterate that it is with utmost diligence that we are moving forward to honour their trust in us. Our responsibility is towards every family and each individual of Kerala. 100 days are too small a time period. Yet, our government sees this 100th day as the first stage for our evaluation. At this juncture, we take it as our responsibility to inform our respected citizens, who have voted us to power, regarding what we have done in this brief period and what we plan to do in the days to come.
Ensuring the long-term development of the state, besides providing immediate relief to those in distress, is the objective of this government. Even though our finances are limited, the government is particular to not let that be a hindrance in achieving our objectives. If we wait to attain adequate finances before proceeding with development activities, Kerala might get left behind in all spheres. That is precisely why the government has reconstituted the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) for infrastructure development and capital investment on one hand, while declaring loan waiver schemes on the other. It may have been noted that an ordinance was passed to mobilise resources of up to Rs 50,000 crore in five years and that the rates of welfare pensions were increased alongside. I am happy that our dual responsibilities as mentioned above are reflected in all our actions.
This government is committed to environment-friendly development. Clear water bodies and lush green nature should not be merely confined to our imagination when it comes to Kerala. Our land, the most beautiful place in the world, should also be the cleanest. Comprehensive schemes are being developed for the protection of our environment and to sanitise our water resources. We will soon initiate the measures to make Kerala garbage-free over the next five years.
Our immediate aim is to ensure that 100 percent of Kerala’s houses have a toilet by the 60th anniversary of Kerala Piravi. Toilets have been constructed for more than 30,000 families by now. Kerala is going to become the first open defecation free state of South India. It is expected that the prime minister will declare this achievement on November 1, 2016.
Quick and convenient transportation system is an absolute necessity for a modern society. Kannur Airport, which is set to become the biggest airport of India, will become operational in April, 2017. We hope that everybody is aware of the speedy progress of Kochi Metro’s construction. Efforts are on to develop our national highways maintaining international standards, with a width of 45 metres. The renovation of our state’s district roads as well as rural roads, along with the smart road project, will be implemented without delay. As Kerala has a long coastline and numerous inland waterbodies like rivers and lakes, the construction of Kochi Water Metro has been initiated as part of the development of the water transport sector which is waste free and less accident prone. The industries based on thermal power will benefit once the LNG gas pipe line project is completed. 2.5 lakh households in Kerala are yet to be electrified. Being a progressive government, we are taking up the responsibility of electrifying those households. Vigorous efforts are underway to make Kerala the first fully electrified state of India by March 1, 2017. All these point to the efficiency of our government.
We recognise that a well educated young generation is our state’s wealth. Our smart youngsters have to be encouraged to become entrepreneurs and job providers instead of settling for just a job on completion of their studies. It is the duty of the government to provide confidence to a generation which is ready to actively take up the many possibilities thrown open by modern science. A scheme to foster around 1,500 start-ups which encourages entrepreneurship among the youth is the result of this realisation. Rs 150 crore has been set aside for start-ups. Efforts are also being made to attract big IT firms to set up shop in Kerala. It has been decided to increase one crore square feet to the built area of our existing IT parks. All IT parks, big and small, will be developed. We are also striving to make our public sector institutions profitable. Apart from this, efforts are also being made to save the central public sector units in Kerala, which are facing threats of closure owing to negligence. The state government has already proceeded with the renovation so as to enable the reopening of FACT’s urea plant, which was shut down. The government has taken over the Palakkad unit of Instrumentation Limited, which was recently decided to be shut down by the central government. Thus, saving it from closure. Likewise the Kochi unit of Hindustan Organic Chemicals will also be protected by the state government. Thousands of people will be newly employed through such rescue measures.
Alongside such efforts to move forward, providing relief to and ensuring the welfare of those in the lower strata of our society is the only way one can realise true development. Price rise and inflation which affect the lives of the common people have to be controlled. Schemes worth Rs 75 crore have been implemented to strengthen the public distribution system. Rs 150 crore is being spent this year alone to regulate the prices of essential commodities. It was decided in the first cabinet meeting itself that the prices of select items in Maveli Stores will not be increased for the next five years. The realisation that everyone should be able to celebrate festivals has led to the setting up of Onam — Bakrid fair price markets across the state. Supplyco has been allotted more than Rs 80 crore this time around to set up fair price markets. The government will intervene in the market to control prices not only during festive seasons, but also during common days. Actions have been taken to quickly implement the National Food Security Act as well as to disburse pending ration cards within six months.
Comprehensive social security will be ensured for the impoverished and distressed workers in the traditional sector. As declared earlier, cashew factories shut down by the previous government were reopened on Chingam 1. We are extremely happy to have kept our promise made to around 18,000 workers in cashew factories. Measures have been adopted to revive MGNREGS, which plays a crucial role in guaranteeing social security in Kerala, and ensure working days equivalent to Rs 1,000 crore through it.
Welfare pensions are our society’s way of caring for our destitute and distressed population. All welfare pensions have been increased to Rs 1,000 per month and have been disbursed to benefactors at their homes along with arrears. Rs 3,100 crore is being issued at the increased rate with effect from June, 2016, through five types of pensions to 37 lakh pensioners at their doorsteps before Onam. The government is happy that we could fulfil the dreams of many elderly people by providing pension to them at their homes within such a short time period. Rs 50 crore is being allocated to alleviate the distress of debt-ridden workers in the fishing industry. Measures have been taken to raise the minimum wages of 13,000 Khadi workers as well as to establish a Khadi Village. Our conscience does not allow us to overlook the hardships faced by the multitude who have availed loans from various government institutions. A comprehensive loan waiver scheme is being implemented to provide solace to around 10,000 families. A moratorium has been declared on the debts taken by the Endosulfan victims as well.
It has been decided to buy land for around 4,500 Scheduled Caste families to enable them to construct their houses. The government is aiming to construct houses for 500 Scheduled Caste families and to provide marriage aid to 10,000 more. A scheme to meet the medical expenses of those from the Scheduled Caste suffering from deadly diseases is also being planned. The government is also implementing a scheme of above Rs 80 crore to develop the basic infrastructural facilities in SC colonies.
The government’s primary focus is on the protection of democracy and the rights of citizens. We will not compromise with secularism either. No activity that promotes caste-based and communal tensions will be tolerated. Our government is undertaking a secular journey which will not yield even a single bit to communalism.
Women’s safety is one of the primary focuses of the government. As you know, this government has taken crimes against women seriously and has brought the perpetrators of such crimes to book. It was thought that the accused in Jisha’s murder in Perumbavoor had escaped. However, he was arrested following a thorough scientific investigation, enhancing a sense of safety in the society, especially among women. It need not be specifically said that the biggest yardstick for the culture of a society is its women feeling secure. It was decided to establish a separate department for women, bearing in mind that the sense of security felt by women is a major yardstick of a society’s culture. Providing clean toilets in public places is a long standing demand. Lack of such a facility causes distress to the women in particular. Budgetary allocation has been made to construct public toilets, especially for the use of women. Considering the welfare of women, schemes have been constituted along with the IMA to reduce infant deaths and maternity deaths as well.
We have seen the cancerous growth of corruption in our society during the previous government’s tenure. This government has come to power waging an uncompromising fight against corruption. We reiterate that we will not yield on that promise. One can easily see that this government has reaffirmed the constitutional freedom and independence of both the Police and the Vigilance departments. Their independence and sincerity these days are there for all to see. Crimes have been investigated quickly and criminals are being brought to book without delay as a result of such policies. It is a matter of pride for the home department as well as for the Kerala Police that the scientifically conducted ATM robbery was solved quickly and that the culprits were nabbed. Schemes are being implemented to transform the Kerala Police into the best force among the Indian Police Forces that is equipped with the latest scientific technologies and devices.
Administrative Reforms Commission has been set up to reform the bureaucracy. ARC’s instructions will be implemented and e-governance will be made efficient to eradicate corruption from Kerala.
Along with the modernisation of our industrial sector, an agricultural culture that ensures the rights of our farmers has to be developed. Our government will adopt measures to reclaim the encroached government land as well as to prevent new encroachment. To alleviate the agrarian crisis in Wayanad, a moratorium has been declared on the loans of the farmers there, providing relief to them. Efforts are being made to ensure the availability of poison-free vegetables through people’s participation in agricultural activities, which can also increase production. It has been decided to strictly implement the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act of 2008. In order to resist the emerging trend of selling off our natural resources, paddy cultivation is also being promoted in barren lands suitable for farming. Paddy will be procured at an expense of Rs 385 crore to protect the interests of farmers. Earlier arrears of Rs 170 crore for the procurement of paddy has also been paid off by the government. Rs 500 crore will be made available to rubber cultivators to tide over their present crisis owing to faulty economic policies. Our policy is to ensure fair price for all agricultural products and to intervene wherever fair prices aren’t available.
You would remember that the government took over four schools that were on the verge of closure. 1,000 public schools, which are the pride of Kerala and where the children of our common people study, will be raised to international standards. Thus, the children from our poor families will have access to quality education at a low cost. A new generation that has acquired education of international standards is a worthy investment for our future.
Cultural complexes and multipurpose indoor stadiums will be constructed in all the districts for the comprehensive development of arts, sports and culture. A strong, intelligent, culturally aware and creative society is what we aim to create.
Steps for implementing the Sabarimala Master Plan is being vigorously pursued.
Our expats provide a strong and crucial support for the survival of Kerala’s economy. Hence, it is the responsibility of the government to rehabilitate those who return from the Gulf countries on losing their jobs. We are pledge-bound to ensure the welfare of such people and their relatives.
Constructing a house for Perumbavoor murder victim Jisha’s mother and making it available a day before the promised date, the decision to increase the rate of welfare pensions, reopening of cashew factories on Chingam 1 as declared earlier, disbursing the pensions of more than 37 lakh people at their homes within 100 days, and the fact that we were able to start the comprehensive loan waiver scheme as planned all reflect our care for and commitment to the weaker sections of our society. Our determination to fulfil every promise we have made so far, will be reflected in all our forthcoming programmes as well.
This LDF government is striving to create a new Kerala that is secular, corruption-free and developed. We believe that so far we have been able to do justice to the slogans raised and promises made by the Left Democratic Front. All this was possible only because of the unflinching support and cooperation of all our people. We expect the same support and cooperation from all sections of our society in our upcoming endeavours as well. Let us stay united irrespective of our caste and religion and guide Kerala to a prosperous future. Let us lead our new generation to self-sufficiency. Let us dedicate ourselves to the creation of a New Kerala. Wishing you all a happy and prosperous Onam and Bakrid.
(Developmental & welfare measures adopted by the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala. Published in Peoples’ Democracy.)