Job creation key takeaway The budget noted that the unemployment rate of people belonging to the 15-59 age group in the state was nearly double the nat’l average. CHENNAI ■ MADURAI ■ VIJAYAWADA ■ BENGALURU ■ KOCHI ■ HYDERABAD ■ VISAKHAPATNAM ■ COIMBATORE ■ KOZHIKODE ■ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ■ BELAGAVI ■ BHUBANESWAR ■ SHIVAMOgGA ■ MANGALURU ■ TIRUPATI ■ TIRUCHY ■ TIRUNELVELI ■ SAMBALPUR ■ HUBBALLI ■ DHARMAPURI ■ KOTTAYAM ■ KANNUR ■ VILLUPURAM ■ KOLLAM ■ WARANGAL ■ TADEPALLIGUDEM ■ NAGAPATTINAM ■ THRISSUR ■ KALABURAGI 8 lakh job opportunities will be created in 2021-22, the finance minister said 3 lakh kannur l saturday l January 16, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 14 l city EDITION CHEERS TO AGRI SECTOR The budget, which came close on the heels of the state assembly passing the resolution against Centre’s farm laws, gave due consideration to the farm sector. The base price of rubber was raised to `170/kg. The procurement price of paddy and coconut was increased to `28/kg and `32/kg, respectively. The budget presented by Finance Minister Thomas Isaac is the alternative approach by the state to survive the ordeals thrown up by the adverse situations it encountered. — Pinarayi Vijayan, CM LAPTOP AT EVERY HOUSE A subsidised laptop distribution programme aimed at creating a digital society by providing laptops at every household has been proposed. The FM said the first phase of the KFON project will be launched next month. He also said no monopoly will be allowed in internet highway. of them will be for the educated and the remaining for the others. HIGHER EDUCATION key The FM announced a sixpoint action plan for the higher education sector, billed as a “development strategy”. The budget proposes improving enrolment ratio in higher educational institutions to 75 per cent as against a national average of 37%. C300cr to be allocated for Wayanad Medical College. 1 2 They will be provided workstations at concessional rates and loans to procure computers l C15k cr from KIIFB to complete major works in 2021-22 3 The budget proposes the creation of a digital platform with details of the available workforce E15k-cr KIIFB funding The Kerala Development Innovation Strategy Council to play key role in ensuring jobs to the educated l 8 lakh job opportunities next fiscal l 4,000 new posts in health sector l Welfare pension to go up to C1,600 last ball six! FM Isaac showers sops in LDF regime’s sixth and last budget Rajesh Abraham e l se w h ere With both eyes clearly on the upcoming assembly election, Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac on Friday unveiled goodies for almost all segments – from farmers to the unemployed, NRIs to government employees, and pensioners to the poor – in the final and sixth budget of the Left Front government. In the last ball of his innings, Isaac has indeed hit a six, but it remains to be seen if this is enough to help his party win the match. However, the generous doles have left financial experts wondering from where the money for the ambitious welfare programmes would come. Isaac also chose to focus on the development of digital economy and knowledge society to address the joblessness in the state, which has the highest educated unemployment rate in the country. Setting aside `200 crore for the newly-created K-DISC (Kerala Development Innovation Strategy Council) as a ‘knowledge economy fund’, he promised to create 20 lakh new jobs in the next five years. Another eight lakh jobs will be created in new development projects in 2021-22. The finance minister, who has now presented a total of 12 budgets, did not try to cover up the political intention behind his large-heartedness. “The LDF is coming back to power. The budget is aimed for our reelection,” Isaac later told reporters. In a record-breaking speech that lasted 3 hours and 18 minutes, Isaac proposed a hike in the support price for Kerala’s key agriculture crops like rubber, coconut and paddy in a move seen as , a message to the Centre, which is grappling with farmers’ protest in Delhi. “The central government’s arrogant attitude of doing whatever they wish based on their majority in Parliament will have to bow down before the farmers,” he said, referring to the controversial farm law reforms. He then announced an increase in support price for rubber from `150 to `170 a kg, paddy from `26.30 to `27 per kg and coconut from `27 to `32 per kg. While distribution of food kits, a key factor that helped the Left in the recent local body polls, INSIDE Increases support price for rubber, coconut and paddy will continue till April, the budget also proposed to provide laptops at subsidised rates for poor students. In what could revive sentiments in infrastructure and industry sectors, the minister announced plans to set up three industrial corridors at an investment of `50,000 crore. While the welfare pension has been hiked by `100 to `1,600, which is expected to benefit 59.5 lakh people, the welfare contribution of NRI retur nees was raised by `200. The honorarium for ASHA workers and elected local body representatives has been increased by `1,000. Delivering good news for the nearly 5 lakh government employees, Isaac said the recommendations of the pay revision commission will come into effect from April. While Isaac’s budget literally extended the gifting season in Kerala, experts warned about the financial fallout of a populist election-oriented budget. “If you notice, not a single measure was announced to raise resources,” said Jose Sebastian, economist and former faculty at the Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation. “The salary and pension hike itself will cost the exchequer another `10,000 crore,” he said. There was a sharp decline in income for the government, which Isaac attributed to the pandemic-related economic slump even as the fiscal deficit shot up to 4.25% from 2.19% in 201920. Acknowledging the shaky financial situation, the minister explained: “There is a fall of 18.77% in revenue income in comparison to budget estimates. There was only a marginal dip of 9.64% in revenue expenditure. Hikes welfare pension, promises 20 lakh jobs Despite poor finances, govt staff set for pay raise come April The Knowledge Society programme is my pick. It aims at Kerala’s transformation into a digital economy. The whole knowledge Kerala package... — Thomas Isaac | Q&A | P5 The government employees’ pay revision report will be submitted by the end of this month. On the basis of the Pay Revision Commission’s recommendation, order will be issued for revising salaries and pensions from the month of April. Arrears will be given later in three instalments. C100cr C5cr 4,530km for rehab activities of nonresident Keralites earmarked for transgenders’ Project Rainbow renovated roads to be ready soon SILVERLINE PROJECT Land acquisition for the multi-crore rail project to begin in the next fiscal Life Mission to build houses for 40,000 SC and 12,000 ST families Blue, white ration card holders to get 10kg rice at C15/kg Tourism industry gets C100 cr for marketing CESS TO END The period of flood cess levied at 1% on GST to get over by July and not to be levied further 03:18:00 Isaac sets record Thomas Isaac broke his predecessor K M Mani’s record by delivering the longest budget speech. Isaac took 3 hrs, 18 min and wound up his speech only after the Speaker requested him to complete the address before 12.30pm. Mani’s 2013 speech had lasted 2 hrs, 58 min. Illus | Tapas ranjan Lottery tickets to offer more prizes LOADED WITH POLITICAL OVERTONES Badayi budget, says Chennithala Weekly lotteries will offer 11,000 more prizes. The FM also announced a set of relief measures for lottery agents. The agent’s commission for prizes worth `100 will be enhanced from C10 to C20. P4 With an eye on the impending assembly polls, the FM came up with a slew of populist measures such as increase in welfare pensions, job-creation and agrarian support, among others. P6 A ‘badayi’ (pompous) budget was how Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala described the budget. He said it is nothing but full of “hollow promises” making it a farce. P6 E-VEHICLES TO GET 50% TAX DISCOUNT FOR 5 YEARS | p2 WELFARE GOOD, BUT RISING DEBT A CONCERN | p4 STAKEHOLDERS SCEPTICAL OF PAY REVISION | p6 Farmer talks fail, next meet on Jan 19 Express news service @ New Delhi / Chandigarh The ninth round of talks between farmers’ unions and the Centre on Friday remained inconclusive but both sides agreed to meet again next Tuesday in a bid to break the deadlock over three contentious far m laws. “The government urged farmers to form an informal group among themselves to prepare concrete proposals to be discussed in the next meeting,” Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said. However, the unions rejected the suggestion. Harinder Singh Lakhowal, general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Punjab (Lakhowal group) said the Centre asked the union leaders to discuss their problems with the farm laws clause-wise. The farmers said no. They also turned down the government’s request to meet the panel formed by the Supreme Court. The apex court had on January 12 stayed implementation of the laws and set up a panel to talk to both the striking farmers and the government. The farm unions have welcomed the stay but refused to meet the panel saying it’s pro-government. The farmers have reiterated they won’t end their protest until the three laws are withdrawn fully . The next round of talks would be significant as the SC-appointed committee will be present in the meeting. One of the panel members, Bhupinder Singh Mann, had on Thursday recused himself from the committee. INFRA DEVELOPMENT GEtS A MAJOR PUSH | p6 EXPRESS READ Kerala see off Delhi for third straight victory Kochi: Kerala defeated a star-studded Delhi by six wickets to register their third straight win in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy national T20 championship at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Friday. Capitol rioters were ready to kill: US Fed prosecutors Washington: US Federal prosecutors on Friday offered the most chilling description yet of Capitol rioters, that their intention was “to capture and assassinate elected officials”. FM PROMISES A HOLISTIC ENVIRONMENTAL APPROACH | p6 First jab today as mother of all vax drives starts 133 centres in state ready Express News Service @ New Delhi India will roll out the world’s biggest vaccination programme on Saturday by inoculating over three lakh healthcare workers against Covid-19, which brought the entire country, and the world, to a halt for much of last year. A total of 3,006 vaccination centres across all states and union territories will be virtually connected as Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the drive at 10.30 am, with 100 beneficiaries getting the shots at each site on the first day . PM Modi said the country will enter a “decisive phase” in the fight against the coron av i r u s p a n d e m i c o n Saturday . Amid concerns over the efficacy of the indigenously developed Covaxin vaccine by Bharat Biotech, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday reiterated that both Covaxin and Covishield, manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute, have “proven safety and immunogenicity records”. These two vaccines will be the “most important tool” to control the pandemic, he added. “Tomorrow is an important day it is the ... last phase of the battle against coronavirus. This is probably the beginning of the end of Covid,” he said. The minister, however, cautioned that even after vaccination, people should not lower their guard and must follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. T’Puram: The state will on Saturday join the rest of the country as the Covid-19 immunisation programme gets under way nationwide. Over 1,300 people registered for vaccination will get the first dose at 133 centres on the launch day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to address health workers of the Ernakulam district hospital during the launch via videoconferencing facility. P7 The immunisation drive will begin with healthcare workers, both in government and private sectors, getting the shots. While reviewing the preparation of the launch, Vardhan suggested that the CoWIN software be pre-populated with non-prioritised beneficiaries by seeding it with electoral database, in addition to other docum e n t s f o r registration. CoWIN, short for Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network, is an online platform meant to facilitate real-time information of vaccine stocks, storage temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries for Covid-19 vaccine. It will also assist programme managers track beneficiary coverage, beneficiary dropouts, sessions planned versus sessions held and vaccine utilisation. The minister also advised the administrative machinery to go all out to counter the misinfor mation campaign. Newly-wed woman found dead in husband’s house, probe launched Express News Service @ T’Puram A 24-YEAR-OLD newly married woman was found dead with her throat cut in the bathroom of her husband’s residence at Kallambalam here on Friday . The deceased is Athira of Sunitha Bhavan, Muthana, Kallambalam. The police, who suspect it to be a case of suicide, have launched a probe after Athira’s relatives raised suspicion. According to Kallambalam police, Athira’s husband Sarath found her dead in the bathroom around 11.45am. Their marriage had taken place only one-and-half-months a go. Around 8am on Friday, Sarath went to a hospital in Kollam along with his father. When Athira’s mother came home to meet her at 10am, she could not see anyone in the house. So she waited for Sarath to come. On retur ning, Sarath started searching for Athira and found the bathroom locked from inside. Sarath broke its door open and found Athira lying in a pool of blood and dead. The police said they were alerted by Sarath. The dog squad and fingerprint experts examined the crime spot and collected samples. The body was shifted to the medical college hospital’s morgue. The postmortem examination will be held on Sat● More on P7 urday .
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