The Cabinet has decided to leave the decision on imposing restrictions on power consumption in the State to Electricity Minister Aryadan Mohammed and the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB).

Briefing the media on the decisions of the weekly Cabinet meeting here on Wednesday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the Cabinet had discussed the issue of power shortage in the State. There was little scope for getting more power from the Central pool since other States were facing power shortages worse than Kerala's. Yet, the Centre was being helpful and Kerala would continue to get its current share from the Central pool. However, there would be problems if higher power allocations were not received.

Mr. Chandy said the KSEB had sought financial aid for purchase of power at a higher cost and this would be conceded.

Vizhinjam panel

A negotiation committee had been formed to scrutinise the tender for the proposed Vizhinjam port. The Principal Secretary (Expenditure), Secretary (Ports), and Secretary (Law), and the Managing Director of Vizhinjam Seaport Limited would be its members.

He said the Cabinet had reviewed the implementation of the Plan in the State. It would be possible to achieve an expenditure of more than 90 per cent in the current year. At the end of February, the Plan expenditure stood at 60 per cent, which was two per cent higher than last year's.

He said the government was continuously monitoring recruitments to government service so that the youth would not suffer on account of the raising of the pension age. Necessary orders were being issued in this regard.

The Cabinet decided to raise the assistance under the Swantana scheme for treatment of heart and certain other diseases, funerals, and treatment of accident victims. Accordingly, the assistance for treatment and funeral would go up from Rs.10,000 to Rs.20,000. The aid for purchasing wheelchairs and other equipment used by the physically challenged would be increased from Rs.5,000 to Rs.10,000.

Revenue recovery

The government would suspend revenue recovery on educational loans in view of its decision to subsidise interest on defaulted loans taken between 2003 and 2009 by persons who could not find employment. Discussions would be held with banks regarding waiving of penal interest. They would be urged to suspend any recovery proceedings pending discussions.

Mr. Chandy criticised banks for limiting the educational loan to students getting admissions under merit quota and charging high interest rates. The Central directive was that all students joining recognised institutions were eligible for loans up to Rs.4 lakh. The government would take up the matter with the banks.

The moratorium on loans taken by fishermen would be extended up to December this year. The scope of the risk fund set up to cover loans given by cooperatives would be extended to cover default resulting from death or disablement of the debtor. The risk cover would be Rs.1.5 lakh in case of death and Rs.75,000 in case of disablement.

The Urban Development Project would be extended by three years so that works proposed under the project could be completed.

The Industries Department would hand over about 30 acres in Palakkad district to the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation for setting up a light engineering park.

The Cabinet congratulated S.P. Muraleedharan who had swam across Palk Strait (between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu) and decided to grant him Rs.5 lakh as a token of its appreciation.

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