Special Correspondent

Bio-control project on the anvil

Plea to include all eligible families in the BPL list

‘Project allocation smacks of political discrimination’

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The City Corporation Council on Saturday accused the Central government of manipulating the BPL (Below Poverty Line) survey in Kerala to push a large number of needy families out of welfare and social security schemes.

A resolution adopted by the council said the parameters of the survey were altered to drive down the number of beneficiaries availing themselves of the assistance under various schemes. Moving the resolution, chairman of the Health standing committee G.R. Anil said the new parameters were based on the standard of life and not on the income and expenditure of a family. He alleged that the parameters were designed as part of a move to reduce the number of BPL families in Kerala from 35 lakh to 10.25 lakh.

“The high living standards achieved through years of investment in key sectors such as education and health would prove to be detrimental for a State like Kerala if the parameters are followed. Lakhs of families in the State will find themselves out of the ambit of poverty alleviation programmes by the Union Ministry of Rural Development and Social Welfare Pension Schemes by the State government,” the resolution said. It urged the Central government to ensure that all the eligible families were included in the BPL list.

Annual plan

Deputy Mayor V. Jayaprakash told the council that the Corporation was chalking out a programme to improve the productivity of coconut farms and promote the manufacture of coconut-based products, under the annual plan for 2007-08. He said moves were afoot to promote farming on leased land by Scheduled Caste families. “The beneficiaries will be given subsidy and bank loans. Kudumbasree units will be roped in to manufacture value-added products,” he said.

Another major project on the anvil is a bio-control project using friendly pests to combat insects ravaging coconut trees.

During the debate on the plan document, United Democratic Front members complained that the issues and demands highlighted at ward sabha meetings were not being addressed in the annual plan. They said the allocation of projects smacked of political discrimination.

Canal cleaning project

A resolution moved by Poundukadavu ward councillor Veli Varghese urged the government to take stern action against the attempt to extract sand from the Parvathy Puthanar canal in the name of cleaning the polluted waterbody. He said large quantities of sand were being removed from the canal and sold under cover of the project designed to develop the canal from Kovalam to Kollam.

Mr. Varghese accused the district administration of turning a blind eye to the unauthorised activity.

“In many places, the dredgers are digging up the bed of the canal up to three feet. The extracted sand is transported to construction sites across the city for a heavy profit, violating the terms of the contract.”

Alleging that officials were hand-in-glove with the contractors, he called for a Vigilance inquiry into the issue. The resolution was supported by councillors across the political spectrum.

During the ensuing discussion, the lone discordant voice was that of the Chacka ward councillor S. Ratheendran. He feared that the attempt to crackdown on sand extraction would sabotage the Central government-assisted project that was taken up following a long-pending demand from the public to widen the canal and provide the waterway with sidewalls for protection.

Mr. Ratheendran said the contractors were forced to dispose of the sand that was scooped up from the canal along with mud and silt.

“The local residents get the sand at throw-away price from the contractors.” Mr. Ratheendran, a CPI(M) member, however, found no support from the Treasury benches.

Puthenpalli councillor Salim said the unscientific removal of sand from the bed of the canal was playing havoc with the waterway.

Opposition members also alleged that the project had turned into a cover-up for the contractors to make a killing out of unauthorised extraction of sand. Deputy Mayor V. Jayaprakash stressed the need for a detailed study to assess the environmental impact of sand mining from the canal. He, however, cautioned against bringing the project to a halt midway through. “It needs a review at this stage,” he said.

Intervening in the debate, Mayor C. Jayan Babu said the issue would have to be examined in detail before drawing a conclusion. The Deputy Mayor was directed to look into the allegations and the resolution was set aside.