There is a People’s Alternative

In May 2016, the Left Democratic Front rode on a wave powered by the hopes and aspirations of the people of Kerala to form a new government in the state. Their hopes emanated from the abject disdain they experienced under the previous UDF regime towards their interests as well as that of the state’s environment. Agony brewed by the central government’s policies that struck at the very root of the sovereignty of the nation and all sections of our society was also reflected in the Left’s victory.

At a time when the global finance capital is at its worst crisis and protests against it are rife throughout the world, we realize that a solid commitment to the people’s interests alone can make a government relevant to those it govern. It is precisely why we have developed a two pronged strategy that will guide us throughout the next five years. On the one hand, we will vigorously champion long term projects to achieve comprehensive development of the state and on the other, we will relentlessly proceed with short term relief measures to provide succour for our disadvantaged sections, in their distress.

Comprehensive Development: Investment, Infrastructure, Industry

We are seized of the absolute necessity to attract investment, to provide infrastructure and to develop industry so as to achieve a comprehensive development of the state. Even though our finances are limited, we are particular to not let that become a hindrance in achieving our objectives. If we wait to attain adequate finances before proceeding with developmental 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. An ordinance was passed to attract investments outside the budget, of up to Rs. 50,000 Crore in the next five years for land acquisition, to construct big roads, bridges, industrial parks and to develop IT and tourism. Government will provide guarantee for investments made through KIIFB, which is a first in India.

Infrastructure is the backbone of industrial development and quick and convenient transportation system is an absolute necessity for a modern society. We are on an overdrive to complete our infrastructural projects, particularly Kannur Airport, Kochi Metro, Light Metro at Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikkode and Kochi Water Metro. Kannur Airport is set to become the biggest airport of India once it is operational in April 2017. As Kerala has a long coastline and numerous inland water bodies 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. Light Metro is our effort to reduce traffic congestions and pollution in our cities. Efforts are on to develop our National Highways maintaining international standards, with a width of 45 metres as well. The renovation of our state’s district roads as well as rural roads along with the smart road project will also be implemented without delay.

Industrial development to us is not merely the establishment of new industries, but it is also the protection of our public sector units. While the Central Public Sector Units are facing threats of closure owing to negligence and faulty economic outlook of the successive central governments, the state is proposing to breath new life into such units in Kerala. The state government has already proceeded with the renovation so as to enable the reopening of FACT’s Urea plant which was shut down earlier. The government has taken over the Palakkad unit of the Instrumentation Limited which was recently decided to be shut down by the Central Government, thus saving it from closure. Likewise, the Kochi unit of the Hindustan Organic Chemicals will also be protected by the state government. Efforts are also under way to set up Pharma and Petrochemical Parks in the state. Thousands of people will be newly employed through such measures.
We recognize 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 any 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 and technology. A scheme to foster around 1500 start-ups which encourages entrepreneurship among the youth is the result of this realization. Rs. 150 Crore has been set aside for start-ups. It has been decided to increase 1 Crore square feet to the built area of our existing IT parks. Along with developing all our IT parks, efforts are also being made to attract successful IT firms to establish themselves in Kerala.

Relief Measures: Debt Relief, Social Security Pensions, Social Justice

Our consciousness 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. The government is bearing an additional expenditure of Rs. 40 Crore for this scheme in which loans of up to Rs. 5 lakh will be waived off. A moratorium has been declared on the loans taken by the Endosulphan victims as well. To alleviate the agrarian crisis in Wayanad, a moratorium has been declared on the loans of the farmers there, providing relief to them. Rs. 50 crore is being allocated to alleviate the distress of debt ridden workers in the fishing industry as well.

Welfare pensions are our society’s way of caring for our destitute and distressed. All welfare pensions have been increased to Rs. 1000 per month and have been disbursed to benefactors at their homes, including arrears. Rs. 3100 crore is being issued at the increased rate with effect from June 2016, through 5 types of pensions to 37 lakh pensioners, at their doorsteps before Onam. We are happy that our government could fulfil the dreams of many old aged people by making pension available to them at their homes within such a short time period. Measures have been taken to raise the minimum wages of 13,000 Khadi workers as well as to establish a Khadi Village. MGNREGS which plays a crucial role in ensuring social security in Kerala is being revived to ensure working days equivalent to Rs. 1000 crore through it.

We are committed to ensuring comprehensive social security 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 of the Malayalam calendar. We were not only developing our industries through this effort, but also keeping a promise we had made to around 18,000 workers in cashew factories. Similarly, we had made a commitment to ensure women’s safety. Staying true to our promise, we have established a separate department for women. Providing clean toilets in public places was a long standing demand. Lack of such a facility causes distress to 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 Indian Medical Association to reduce infant deaths and maternity deaths as well.

Clean through Green

A comprehensive project is being implemented to clear and remove waste from all the water bodies in Kerala; ponds, rivers, lakes and streams. Disposal of solid waste, removal of waste water and measures to increase the area of land under cultivation will be undertaken under this project. Land cleaned up through this project will be used for vegetable cultivation, so as to achieve self sufficiency in agriculture. This will be a peoples’ participatory program on the lines of literacy mission, democratic decentralization and peoples’ planning. Power generation from solar energy and wind energy will also be a part of this project.

Our commitment to the environment is evident in our commitment to ensure the strict implementation of 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. Despite being far ahead of the national and several big state’s figures on availability of toilets, aiming to make Kerala 100% open defecation free by the 60th anniversary of Kerala Piravi is also a pointer to our commitment to the environment. Use of solar power alongside other sources to achieve 100% electrification of the state is also because we understand sustainable environment to be the primary foundation for comprehensive development.

LIFE: Livelihood, Inclusion, Financial Empowerment

There are four types of homeless people in Kerala. Those with land, but no homes. Those with unusable homes that have dilapidated over time. Those who have no land and are living in encroached land. Those who have no land but cannot move out of their current living places owing to their nature of work, like those in the fishing industry, estate workers, tribals etc. We are undertaking a massive housing campaign to build houses for 2 lakh families without land or housing in the next five years. 6 lakh people will benefit from this path breaking initiative. 3 cents would be needed per family for independent houses, requiring a total of 6,000 acres. Instead, as our state faces an acute shortage of land, housing complexes will be built, requiring only 1,140 acres of land. This project coordinated between the departments of local self government and social justice will be inaugurated alongside the celebrations of Kerala Piravi. Social security schemes will be initiated in the housing complexes, as well as skill training for adults among the beneficiaries. Emphasis will be on financial empowerment and providing means of livelihood.

Progressive and Secular Society

The hallmark of Kerala society is its commitment to uphold progressive and secular values which are deeply embedded into its psyche thanks to the contribution of the social reform movements and the left progressive forces. Our government has not minced words in exposing those outfits that can cause disharmony in our society and has given special care to not attach them to any religion. We will continue our staunch opposition to such destructive forces and ensure that the progressive, secular nature of our society is nourished and cherished.

A government becomes relevant only when it is able to make a positive contribution in the day to day lives of its citizens. Our proposed Administrative Reforms Commission will enable us to ensure that both government and bureaucracy makes a positive contribution to the people it governs. Similarly, a government becomes dependable only when people realize that they will not falter on any promise made. Constructing a house for Jisha’s mother who was murdered in Perumbavoor and making it available a day before the promised date, the decision to increase the rate of welfare pensions, reopening of cashew factories, 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.

While all the naysayers in the world will unite to tell us that there is no alternative, in this small state of Kerala, we because of our sheer commitment to the people who have bestowed us with this responsibility of governance, are leaving no stone unturned to achieve a people’s alternative; an alternative that caters to the hopes and aspirations of all sections of our society.