KASARGOD: Finance minister K N Balagopal's budget for 2022-2023 has left Kasaragod's legislators fuming.
The shocker came when the minister slashed the allocation for Kasaragod Development Package by 40%. He earmarked Rs 75 crore for the Kasaragod Development Package, a special fund for the development of the backward district.
Last year, T M Thomas Isaac had allocated Rs 125 crore, and before that Rs 91 crore was allocated for the fund.
To be sure, the special officer for Kasaragod Development Package had sent a proposal for projects worth Rs 250 crore to the finance minister as part of the pre-budget consultation.
The focus of the proposal was on creating infrastructure to promote small businesses, value-added agriculture products, ecological restoration, water conservation, developing health infrastructure, and projects fisheries and animal husbandry. "With just Rs 75 crore, the development of the district would be severely affected," said an official.
Manjeshwar MLA, A K M Ashraf said the Balagopal's budget stopped at Kannur. "For a district where 21 people lost their lives during covid lockdown because they could not access hospitals in Mangaluru, this budget has nothing for its health infrastructure," said Ashraf.
The five MLAs of the district are dependent on the package to implement developmental projects, he said.
Kasaragod MLA N A Nellikkunnu said he was not expecting much from a government that always claims to have no money. "Kasaragod should feel lucky to get Rs 75 crore from the government," he said.
Rs 17 crore for endosulfan programmes
The finance minister earmarked Rs 17 crore for the 'Comprehensive Endosulfan Package, down from Rs 19 crore set aside last year by Issac. Balagopal said 80% of the fund or Rs 13.60 crore would be "beneficial to women" survivors. That leaves only Rs 3.4 crore for male survivors of endosulfan.
The budget is also mum on compensating the survivors of endosulfan. In January 2017, the Supreme Court ordered the state government to give Rs 5 lakh each to all the 6,728 endosulfan survivors in three months. Since then, the survivors have filed two contempt of court petitions in the apex court because the state government is not acting on the order.
The state government had partially paid the compensation to some of the survivors but it will need another Rs 217.06 crore to compensate all the survivors, said Kanhangad MLA E Chandrasekharan. "I will be writing to the finance minister on finding the funds to compensate the survivors," he said.
On slashing the allocation for Kasaragod Development Package, the former Revenue Minister said he did know the reason for that. "I will be taking the matter up with the minister," he said.
The budget also does not earmark funds for the Endosulfan Rehabilitation Village to be constructed at Muliyar
Last week, the minister for self-government and excise M V Govindan said the construction of the rehabilitation centre would begin on April 7. The Oommen Chandy government had set aside Rs 5 crore for the project.
ULCCS Ltd, which is building the centre, had made a plan for Rs 54.75 crore in 2014-15. As six years have passed since then, the company had asked the Social Justice Department to upwardly revise the estimate. But the department had rejected it.
But the project finds no mention in the budget.
Industry in Kasaragod
Kasaragod MLA N A Nellikkunnu welcomed the finance minister's decision to set aside Rs 2.5 crore to start a new industry on the 1.99-acre plot of KSIDC on Beach Road in Kasaragod town.
The plot in the middle of the town was home to Astral Watches Limited, a public sector company that became defunct in 2002.
Nellikkunnu had petitioned the industries minister P Rajeeve to start a new venture on the plot. The finance minister, however, did not mention what kind of industry would be set up there.
Air-strip in Kasaragod
The long-proposed air-strips in Idukki, Wayanad, and Kasaragod are still in a conceptual stage, said the finance minister. He has earmarked Rs 4.51 crore for preparing Detailed Project Reports and acquiring land.
200 days of assured job for tribespeople
A new scheme, Kerala Tribal Plus, is being launched in Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad, Palakkad, and Idukki districts to give 100 more days of jobs to tribespeople under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment. So, they will get 200 days of assured jobs. The finance minister set aside Rs 35 crore for the programme.