Minister for Finance and Public Works T. M. Thomas Isaac announced on Thursday that stamp duty on registration of release deeds, in connection with partition of land, would be reduced to one percent.

Replying to the debate on the Kerala Finance Bill in the Assembly, the Minister said that the tax rate now was five per cent. Lower rates would be retained for registration of land given as Meher which had gone on revision of rates based on fair value.

Dr. Isaac also announced that tax exemption for Kudumbasree products would be extended to government agencies selling Kudumbasree products. Tax on chicken brought from other States would be allowed to be compounded at 12.5 per cent of the price fixed by the government. The changes needed to the Bill in these regards would be effected at the report stage.

He said that the notification issued fixing the fair value of land for conveyance was final. Only the date for filing appeals had been extended. The notified values would not apply to mortgage or lease.

He informed the House that the Kerala Finance Corporation would issue bonds shortly. The government had adjusted its accumulated losses against equity and rendered the balance sheet clean through recapitalisation.

He said that the growth rate of the State’s debt was lower than that during the UDF period. While debts doubled during the UDF rule, it had increased only by 70 per cent after the LDF assumed office. The average plan expenditure during the past five years was 90 per cent.

The Minister said that the Woks Department’s drive to eliminate potholes from roads would soon start showing results. People could monitor action on their complaints through the official Web site of the Department. Though he was not in favour of exempting value added tax on raw materials purchased for schemes financed from MLA Fund, the matter could be examined.

Referring to pastoral letter read out in some Catholic churches last Sunday, Dr. Isaac said that the letter called upon its followers to vote based on their religious beliefs. Politics based on religion was against secular concepts. Yet, the Congress was cheering the pastoral letter and was hoping to win the elections riding on that.

Kerala Congress leader K. M. Mani interjected to say that the letter only said that the believers had a right to vote against non-believers.

The Minister said that the RSS and the SDPI also wanted its followers to vote on the basis of their religious beliefs. He was not equating the Church and the RSS. However, the call for casting of votes in accordance with beliefs was only one step down the position of the SDPI.

After the Minister’s reply, the House referred the Bill to the Subject Committee.