Chandy promises free rice for poor in budget

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 12 (IANS) Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in his budget on Friday promised to provide 25 kgs of free rice from the next fiscal to all families below the poverty line.

His budget proposals revolved around his pet slogan — development and care. He set aside Rs.100 crore for a new project named ‘kanivu’ (concern) for the poorest of the poor and those who suffer from various ailments.

The monthly pension for all those who are aged 75 and above has been raised to Rs.1,500.

Some three million people will benefit from the insurance scheme launched by the prime minister after Chandy said their insurance premium would be borne by the state government.

He also set aside Rs.764 crore for reviving the beleaguered agriculture sector and announced raising the farmers monthly pension to Rs.750.

“A sum of Rs.500 crore is being earmarked to ensure that the benchmark price of one kg of rubber is kept at Rs.150. In the present fiscal this amount was Rs.300 crores,” said Chandy.

Three new agriculture colleges and a new agri-polytechnic will be set up in the new fiscal.

Another Rs.100 crore was set aside for building a new dam in place of the leaking Mullaperiyar dam.

A total of Rs.2,536.07 crore was set aside for major infrastructure projects like the Vizhinjam port, Kannur airport, Kochi metro, suburban rail corridor and the proposed light metro projects in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.

The budget also saw the earmarking of Rs.5,000 crore to the local bodies in the state as part of the plan fund allocation.

After K.M. Mani, the state finance minister, quit following an adverse court remark last year, the finance portfolio was handled by Chandy.

Chandy presented the budget on Friday amid slogan shouting by the Left opposition, demanding that he has no moral right to present the budget as he and a few of his minister’s are under a cloud for accepting bribes in the bar and solar scams.

The opposition walked out of the house and boycotted the session.

Chandy said the IT exports that stand at Rs.11,000 crore are expected to touch Rs.15,000 crore. He added that he is setting aside Rs.483 crore for the IT sector.

“Sam Pitroda had recommended the setting up of a knowledge city and for this 150 acres of land has been identified and a token sum has been kept aside for this project,” said Chandy.

He said Rs.25 crore will be given to set up 1,000 start-ups.

Chandy presented a revenue deficit budget of Rs.9,897.45 crore.

By the time he finished reading it, Speaker N.Sakthan told the house that the two hour 54 minutes long speech is by far the longest budget speech in the history of the state assembly.

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