Mani keeps both benches happy during reply to general debate on budget
Finance Minister K.M. Mani on Wednesday played to the gallery by announcing another set of welfare measures, besides withdrawing the hike in lump-sum tax on autorickshaws that would force him to give up Rs.25 crore. He, however, turned his attention to cigarettes and other similar products by hiking the tax rate from the current 20 per cent to 22 per cent to net Rs.50 crore.
Mr. Mani appeared to be in a benevolent mood during the course of his reply to the three-day general debate on the budget, going by the mood of the House to announce several welfare measures. He took due care to keep the Opposition and ruling bench members satisfied while announcing sops ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
He announced sops for his pet concerns such as rubber procurement by earmarking Rs.10 crore for market intervention to prevent prices from falling.
He raised the allocation for rehabilitation schemes for Non-resident Keralites to Rs.50 crore from the Rs.10 crore he had promised in his budget speech.
He said he would forgo another Rs.14 crore by withdrawing his budget proposal to levy a fee on safe custody of gahan documents by the sub-registrars.
Some of the proposals put forward by the Opposition MLAs that were sanctioned impromptu by the Minister included Rs.5 crore for the EMS Stadium in Malabar and mini-civil stations in several constituencies.
The following are the salient features of Mr. Mani’s fresh proposals: hike in salaries of palliative care nurses working in primary health centres from Rs.6,000 to Rs.8,000; across-the-board hike of Rs.100 for welfare pensions; Rs.15 crore for the Attukal township; additional allocation of Rs.15 crore for fire and rescue operations; hike in the allocation for the International Media Centre of the Thiruvananthapuram Press Club from Rs.5 lakh to Rs.20 lakh; hike in grant amounts given to residents of orphanages, poor homes, old-age homes and institutions for the physically challenged from Rs.800 to Rs.1,000; hike in anganwadi workers’ remuneration to Rs.2,000; hike in Accredited Social Health Activists’ remuneration to Rs.1,000; and Rs.5 crore for the K. Karunakaran memorial spinning mills at Mala.
The Finance Minister promised to table a comprehensive account of the concessions and additional measures he had announced, some which were impromptu statements.
He said he was withdrawing the lump-sum tax on autorickshaws because the government wanted to reach out to the common man.