The UDF government, which completed 25 days in office on Saturday, faces several challenges on the administrative front (apart from those on the political front).
On one side, it is trying to push forward a 100-days programme for the development of the State. On the other side it will have to deal with several complex and controversial issues in the coming days. Several of them are the legacy of the previous governments.
The issue of admissions to the self financing professional colleges and fee structure is defying a solution even as the government came under cloud over admissions of the children of Health and Education ministers. It will have to face several legal hurdles if it is to achieve 50 per cent government quota in the colleges which was the declared policy of the previous UDF government.
The Munnar encroachments and illegal constructions are back in the picture with fresh encroachment that began during the election time. The encroachers are defying government authority and the government had so far been unable to assert itself to stop the trend. The demarcation of government land in some places by the previous government did not help. At least in some places, those had become markers for squatters to find fresh land for encroachment.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had announced in one of his election speeches in Idukki district that the encroachers would be evicted. However, the Revenue Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan stated recently that there would not be any demolitions. Mr. Radhakrishnan is slated to visit Munnar this week to assess the situation.
Several of the initiatives of the government for endosulfan victims are yet to reach the people. Kerala could not also be insulated against smuggling of endosulfan from neighbouring States for use in its estates and farms and arrival of fruits and vegetables carrying pesticide residues. The previous government had demanded a national ban on endosulfan to make enforcement easier. However, Mr. Chandy concurred with the Central government’s stand that a ban was not possible with concurrence of other States which is not forthcoming. However, the fact remain that many pesticides had been banned in the country in the past without seeking consensus from the States, but on the basis of scientific evidence and International conventions. The government has not so far taken action against anyone for gross violation of norms in the aerial spraying of endosulfan in Kasaragod district. That itself demonstrates the failure of enforcement of Pesticide Act and Rules in the State.
The government has promised fresh polices in a number of sectors such as Information Technology, Housing, Excise, Tourism, Public-Private Partnership, Nutrition and Youth Affairs as part of the 100-days programme. While the drafts for some of these were under preparation, others may have to be drawn up now. It would be an uphill task to prepare those policies within such a short time frame. There is also the transport policy the draft of which had been released by the previous government in February this year. Enforcing proposals in the policy such as discouraging use of personalised vehicles in favour of mass transport systems will require determination.
The proposal for high speed North South Rail Corridor and Expressway are proposals that had failed to take off even years after they had been mooted. Political pressure would have to be applied on the Centre to get the proposal for Rail corridor cleared while a lot of will would be required to go ahead with land acquisition for expressway.
In fact, development of several national and State highways had been hampered by problems in land acquisition. The government proposes to bring a policy that would provide for rehabilitation of evictees before projects are taken up. The unfinished road development projects include the M. C. Road, Changanassery-Alappuzha Road and Punalur-Muvattupuzha Road. All the national highways need widening and improvement. Nexus between politicians, officials and the contractors is one of the major reasons for poor quality of the roads in the State.
The Committee constituted by the previous government for modernisation of Forest Department had submitted its report just before the LDF government demitted office. It calls for policy decision on status of the cardamom hills reserves which the previous government had failed to take. There are a host of issues connected to forests such as excess and encroached lands in possession of estates, renewal of grants and leases and revision of rents, alienation of tribal lands, claims on areas declared as ecologically fragile and reining of ecotourism that the new government need to tackle.
With Sabarimala season just five more months away, the government will also have to attend to pollution control and provision of amenities to pilgrims especially in view of the stampede that claimed more than 100 lives early this year. Though the tragedy had happened in January, the judicial enquiry into it is yet to start.
On the developmental front, there are projects such as NRK village, Kinfra industrial parks and Technocity in Thiruvanantahpuram that did not take off. The government will have to push for realisation of projects such as Vizhinjam international container transhipment terminal, Kannur airport, gas distribution system under Petronet LNG project and railway coach factory (Palakkad).