KERALA GETS COLD SHOULDER IN 2018-19 BUDGET
LDF GOVT PAYS PRICE FOR IRS ANTI-RSS STANCE
NEW DELHI: It has, once again, been an unremitting tale of neglect of Kerala in the Union Budget.
The positives first. The allocation of Rs 10,000 crore for fisheries and aquaculture is a silver lining to an otherwise dark cloud. It is, undoubtedly, a much-needed relief for the fisheries industry in the state, a top producer of fish.
However, the announcement has not enthused the unions active in the field of fisheries. They are of the view that the allocation would benefit only fisheries institutions and fishing industry. The traditional fishermen have been meted out a raw deal, once again, they point out, adding that they are still battling to keep their heads above water. The Government, they say, has simply refused to take any steps to end the systematic loot of fisheries resources by the big corporates.
Another beneficiary has been the cashew sector. The reduction of import duty on raw cashew from 5 per cent to 2.5 per cent is a much-needed relief for the labour-intensive industry. Higher import duty had caused an acute shortage of cashew, leading to closure of many factories.
The picture is one of allround gloom as far as other sectors are concerned.
The biggest let-down has been the Union Government’s stubborn refusal to enhance the allocation for Railways. The budget has turned a blind eye to Kerala’s demand for allocations for the Thalassery-Mysuru railway line and the Sabari line.
The budget has also been deafeningly silent on the State’s demand for a terminal at Nemom and a suburban service.
The unkindest cut has been the failure to make any mention about the coach factory at Kanjikkode in Palakkad district. The land the state had earmarked for the coach factory is a visible symbol of the Centre’s total apathy to Kerala’s rail demands.
Likewise, Kerala’s long-standing demand for an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has also remained unmet. The erstwhile Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government had failed to respond to the demand positive. There were hopes that the Modi Government would take a positive stand on the issue. Those hopes have been belied.
Besides, there were great expectations of a cut in excise duty on petrol and diesel which would have given the people, reeling under an unprecedented price rise, a big relief. But the Finance Minister has chosen not to alleviate people’s distress on account of rising fuel prices.
Last but not the least, the Centre has given the prestigious National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Ship Building (NIRDESH) the royal cold shoulder. The budget’s studied silence on the future of the Rs 200-crore project has drawn widespread flak.
The foundation stone for the prestigious project had been laid in 2011 by the then Defence Minister A K Antony. The project had come up amid controversy that the project had been brought to Kerala for purely political reasons and without any proper study and planning.
The widely prevalent perception is that the State, ruled by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government is being penalised for its failure to give the BJP any appreciable electoral boost. It is an open secret that the Modi Government and the LDF Government do not see eye to eye on many sensitive issues. The Centre is also unhappy about what it perceives as the LDF Government’s failure to curb political violence against the RSS-BJP combine.