Finance Minister K. M. Mani told the Assembly on Tuesday that law allowing conversion of five per cent of plantations for cultivation of other crops and tourism would be implemented carefully.

“None would be allowed to misuse the law,” the Minister said while replying to the debate on the supplementary demands for grants for the current year.

The Opposition had contended that the amendment to the Land Reforms Act, which received the assent of the President recently, would lead to conversion of more than 90000 acres of plantations.

Intervening in the debate, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that there was support for the law in the Plantation Standing Committee. The previous UDF government had brought it since the plantations were in a serious crisis. The LDF government, which came to power subsequently, did not ask for withdrawal of the Bill while it awaited assent of the President.

Former Labour Minister P. K. Gurudasan interjected to say that no trade union had agreed to enactment of the law. The LDF government did not pass a resolution in the Assembly for its withdrawal because the Bill was invalid.

Deputy Leader of the CPI (M) Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that the amendment would undermine land reforms. The government should think of changing it since the law had received assent.

Mr. Mani said that permission to planters to change crops in case of necessity was justified.

He said that the economic slow down was affecting the State though marginally. The entrepreneurship mission and skill development programmes for students would help to fight slow down.

Capital expenditure as a percentage of total expenditure had increased from eight per cent during the LDF rule to 10 per cent now. The government was also providing special assistance of Rs. 1000 to persons registered under the MGRNREA scheme in connection with reopening of schools. It would be spending Rs. 17 crore to provide Onam kits to BPL families.

Noting that the policy of UDF government was different from that of the LDF, Mr. Mani said that policies of the previous government had caused losses to the State. Failure to reduce revenue deficit resulted in the State losing Rs. 812 crore as Finance Commission Award. Opposition to Vaidyanathan Commission report on cooperative sector had resulted in loss of assistance amounting to Rs. 1000 crore. NABARD and HUDCO stopped funding projects in the State.

Refuting Opposition contention that the payments to PWD contractors were in arrears, the Minister said that the orders had been issued for release of payments up to April this year. Arrears of two months were nothing unusual.

After the Minister’s reply, the House passed the supplementary demands for grants totalling Rs. 616 crore.

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