Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan used the seventh governing council meeting of the NITI Aayog to press the Centre for legislation to circumvent the Supreme Court directive to impose an ecologically sensitive buffer zone within a one-kilometre radius of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
The imposition of the buffer zone had precipitated a palpable sense of uneasiness in Kerala, given that forests accounted for nearly 30% of its geographical area.
Moreover, many settler farmers abutting forests feared the proposed buffer zone would impede development and upend their livelihood. The districts of Wayanad and Idukki, which has a 72.33 and 74.1% forest cover respectively, had also emerged as the hotspots of angry resistance against the Supreme Court order.
“It is necessary to alleviate the hardships of the marginalised sections that live in affected areas,” Mr. Vijayan said.
He also urged the Centre to review the imposition of GST on essential items. He said the development of States hinged on the extension of GST compensation till 2027.
The Chief Minister also urged the Centre to lift the borrowing limit prescribed for States to fast-track infrastructure development by raising money from the open financial market via constitutionally sanctioned and legitimate special purpose vehicles, such as the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board.
Mr. Vijayan showcased Kerala's strides towards decentralising power to local self-governments in adherence to the 11th and 12th schedules of the Constitution.
He hoped Kerala's achievement would reflect positively on the distribution of Consolidated Funds of India to the States. He also called for revising the Centre's share of assistance for rural and urban housing under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, given the rise in construction costs.
Mr. Vijayan also spotlighted the travails of Kerala’s coastal population, which are highly vulnerable to vagaries of the weather. “Kerala’s 590-km long coastline is susceptible to soil erosion, especially during extreme rainfall. The Centre should accord financial and technological support to protect the shore from tidal surges and the encroaching sea,” he said.
The Centre’s decision to reduce Kerala’s kerosene quota had adversely impacted fishers. He hoped the Centre would reinstate the allocation.
The Chief Minister also sought the Centre's support to revitalise the coconut sector in Kerala. He sought assistance to manufacture value-added products and more robust saplings to replace the ageing palms.
Mr. Vijayan said democratic, constitutional, and secular values informed Kerala's education sector. Kerala emphasised developing a scientific temper. He also spotlighted the K-FON project to bring free high-speed Internet to poor households, thereby helping bridge the digital divide.