The State Budget presented by Finance Minister, K.M.Mani, would accelerate the overall development of the State, said Mr Peelipose Thomas, former Planning Board member and a member of the All-India Congress Committee.

Meanwhile, opposing Mr Thomas’s views, the Communist Party of India(Marxist) district secretary, K. Ananthagopan, alleged that the budget presented by Mr Mani would only take the State several steps backward in terms of development, especially in the agriculture sector.

Both the leaders were taking part in a discussion on the budget held at Pathanamthitta Press Club on Thursday.

Mr Thomas said as per the latest economic survey report, Kerala stood in the last position in terms of agriculture development. The paddy cultivation in the State has been reduced to an extent of mere 2.13 lakh ha and the budget presented by Mr Mani clearly indicated certain constructive initiatives in the State’s farming sector, he added.

According to him, the decision to set up green houses in each panchayat was a conscious attempt to lure the young generation to farming and to revamp the State’s agriculture sector with the help of modern technology.

Mr Thomas said the decision to set up a medical college in each district should be treated as a positive initiative to improve the State’s public health sector and medical education.

He said there was little relevance for making claims and counter claims over the region-wise budget allocation as the Government was primarily concerned about the overall development of the State as a single unit above all petty regional preferences.

The budget as a whole was full of progressive initiatives aimed at taking the State’s economic system forward, he added.

Hopeless budget: Opposition

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) leader alleged that the budget presented by Mr Mani was a hopless one which could doom the State’s economy, especially the farm sector.

Mr Ananthagopan alleged that as in the case of the sidelining of Kerala in the Union Budget, the State Budget has miserably sidelined the genuine grievances of Pathanamthitta district.

The State budget presented by the Finance Minister would in no way help development of the State, leaving the common man in a pitiable state of price rise and helplessness, he alleged.

Mr Ananthagopan said the budget has recommended revenue accumulation worth Rs 1,512 crore by way of value added tax (VAT), leaving the common people to bear the brunt.

He alleged that both the Union and State budgets have not made any special announcement aimed at agriculture development. No country in the world, except India, had witnessed 2.5 lakh farmer suicides in a span of 10 years. The State budget has not made even single point which could address the basic grievances of the farming community, he alleged.

The CPI(M) leader said it was the previous Left Democratic Front Government that had enhanced the paddy procurement price from Rs 7 a kg to Rs 14 a kg.

Though the UDF claims to have made budget allocation for enhancing various small welfare pensions, it had kept a blind eye towards the welfare pension scheme of the farm workers who constitute a major chunk of the 17.5 lakh beneficiaries of various welfare pension schemes, the CPI(M) leader alleged.

Raising the retirement age of Government employees to 56 years has worsened the unemployment crisis in the State, leaving the scores of educated unemployed youth to continue their wait for a placement till April 2013. Moreover, the budget has made no initiative to strengthen the State’s Public Distribution System, he alleged.

Sabarimala development

Mr Peelipose Thomas claimed that no Government in the past had such a realistic budget allocation for Sabarimala development.

He said the UDF Government has set apart Rs 25 crore for implementing various projects envisaged in the Sabarimala Master Plan, Rs 20 crore for heavy maintenance of the major roads leading to Sabarimala and Rs 5 crore for sanitation.

Mr Thomas said Kerala and West Bengal were identified as the two worst debt-stressed States in the whole country.