The Budget presented by Finance Minister K.M. Mani will accelerate the overall development of the State, Peelipose Thomas, former Planning Board member and a member of the All India Congress Committee, has said.

Opposing his views, Communist Party of India (Marxist) district secretary K.Ananthagopan said the Budget would pull the State backwards in terms of development, especially in the agriculture sector.

The leaders were taking part in a discussion on the Budget at the Pathanamthitta Press Club on Thursday.

Mr. Thomas said as per the economic survey, Kerala stood last in terms of agriculture development. Paddy was cultivated only in 2.13 lakh hectares and the budget indicated constructive initiatives to boost the farm sector.

The decision to set up greenhouses in each panchayat was an attempt to lure youths to farming and revamp the agriculture sector with the help of modern technology.

Mr. Thomas said the decision to set up medical college in each district should be treated as a positive initiative to improve the public health sector.

He said there was little relevance in making claims and counterclaims over the region-wise budget allocation as the government was concerned about the overall development of the State.

The budget as a whole was full of progressive initiatives aimed at taking the State's economic system forward, he added.

Demands sidelined

Mr. Ananthagopan said the Budget could spell doom for the State's economy, especially the farm sector. He said the Budget had sidelined the genuine demands of the district.

The Budget would in no way help development of the State. Mr. Ananthagopan said the Budget had recommended revenue accumulation worth Rs.1,512 crore by way of value added tax, which would hit the common man.

He said the Union and State budgets had not made any special announcement aimed at agriculture development. He said 2.5 lakh farmers had committed suicide in the past 10 years. The State budget did not have anything that would address basic grievances of the farm community.

Mr. Ananthagopan said it was the previous Left Democratic Front government that had enhanced the paddy procurement price from Rs.7 to Rs.14 a kg.

Though the UDF claimed to have made budget allocation for enhancing various welfare pensions, it had turned a blind eye towards the welfare pension scheme of farm workers, who constituted a major chunk of the 17.5 lakh beneficiaries of welfare pension schemes, Mr. Ananthagopan said.

Raising the retirement age of government employees would worsen the unemployment crisis in the State. The budget had not made any initiative to strengthen the State's Public Distribution System, he said.

Mr. Thomas said no government had made such a realistic budget allocation for Sabarimala development.

He said the government had set apart Rs.25 crore for implementing various projects envisaged in the Sabarimala Master Plan, Rs. 20 crore for heavy maintenance of major roads leading to Sabarimala, and Rs.5 crore for sanitation.

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