: Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac has announced a transformation package for rations shops by declaring them franchisees of the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation selling coconut oil, green gram, dal, chillies and sugar.

The Finance Minister said in his budget speech presented in the Assembly on Thursday that he had earmarked Rs.100 crore for this proposal. It would be implemented this month itself through 3,000 select public distribution outlets that would sell the five commodities at half the open market price. He said he had provided Rs. 20 crore in the Supplementary Demand for Grants to help the government operationalise the scheme this month itself.

He said the Rs.2-a-kilo rice scheme would be extended to five lakh more families, taking to the total to 40 lakh families. He said the annual subsidy of the Civil Supplies Corporation would be enhanced from Rs.50 crore to Rs.75 crore. Dr. Isaac praised his Cabinet colleague Cooperation Minister G. Sudhakaran by recognising the role played by his department in tackling price rise by enhancing the subsidy for Consumerfed from Rs. 25 crore to Rs. 50 crore. The Horticulture Corporation will get Rs. 20 crore for holding the price line of vegetables, he said.

He sanctioned a hike for ration dealers. Wholesale retailers will get Rs.40 a quintal, wholesalers would be eligible for Rs.30.