Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said here on Sunday that the State government’s decision to withdraw value-added tax (VAT) on the subsidy part of the cooking gas price would have effect from January 1, making Kerala the first State to give relief to consumers on this count.

At a press conference at his residence here, Mr. Chandy said the Cabinet had taken a decision on the VAT exemption on December 23 as soon as the fact that five per cent tax was being charged on the subsidy part was brought to its notice. Henceforth, consumers need to pay for LPG cylinders after deducting the VAT amount of Rs. 42.80. The State government would have to absorb an additional burden of Rs. 247 crore on account of the exemption. The tax amount collected from consumers from January 1 would be returned.

Mr. Chandy said the government would take speedy steps to sort out the issues related to the linking of the Aadhaar number with bank accounts. Though Aadhaar coverage had reached 90 per cent, only 57 per cent of the numbers had been linked to bank accounts. The State government would ask for extension of time beyond the two months’ exemption given.

The Chief Minister said the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had set a new record in failed agitations. In the latest instance, he said, the party withdrew an agitation on a specious claim that the number of subsidised LPG cylinder had been raised to 12 because of its protest.

Mr. Chandy questioned the rationale of the ongoing agitation by the Democratic Youth Federation of India, alleging a recruitment ban on government employment. Giving the details sector by sector of the number of appointments made through the Public Service Commission, Mr. Chandy said it was his government that sanctioned posts on several recruitment decisions taken by the previous Left Democratic Front Ministry, including teacher’s posts in higher secondary schools. He said the government had set a record by forming 12 new taluks and opening eight medical colleges in the government sector, seven general hospitals, four district hospitals and seven taluk hospitals. Panchayats that did not have high schools and higher secondary schools and Assembly constituencies that did not have government colleges would soon have one.

To a question, the Chief Minister admitted that the government could not pay much attention to shoring up its enforcement departments since currently the priority had been to the service sector departments of Health and Education.

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