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Congress, BJP slams policy address for ‘hiding financial crunch’

Satheesan objects to the ‘insistence on implementing SilverLine,’ says UDF will oppose project even if Centre gives its approval

January 23, 2023 07:24 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:07 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said the Governor’s policy address for the 2023-24 fiscal glossed over Kerala’s dire financial crisis characterised by an empty exchequer, mounting public debt burden, and developmental stasis.

The LDF government also turned aside from criticising the BJP-led Union government’s anti-State policies and its infringements on federalism, among other trespasses on the Constitution. The policy address reflected the CPI(M) leadership’s unholy nexus with the BJP at the Centre.

The government’s welfare doles to vulnerable sections have ground to a halt. For one, the Kerala State Farmers’ Debt Relief Commission owed its beneficiaries over ₹400 crore.

Welfare pension backlog

It owed ₹200 crores in procurement arrears to paddy cultivators. The government has failed to clear the backlog of welfare pensions for construction workers. The government had spent only ₹48 crores out of the ₹1,600 crore earmarked for its off-repeated, several times re-launched and perennially nascent “Nava Kerala” programme.

Mr. Satheesan said the government was scrapping the barrel to pay salaries and pensions. It was at a loss to pay civic work bills submitted by government contractors. The backlog of deferred payments was mounting, resulting in a stoppage of developmental work.

Functioning of police

He said the government made a mockery of itself by claiming that the Kerala Police was faultlessly professional. Ground reality reflected otherwise. CPI(M) interference in routine policing had worked to the advantage of felonious officers and gangsters profiting from organised crime.

The policy address had totally bypassed the coastal community. It lacked a road map to rehabilitate fishers. The previous Budget allocated ₹500 crore for fisherfolk’s welfare. The proposals have remained on paper, and the government has yet to spend a rupee.

The policy address insisted on implementing socially disruptive and environmentally hazardous SilverLine (K-Rail) semi-high-speed railway project. It predicted the scheme would get Central clearance. “Even if the BJP clears the SilverLine, the UDF will resist its implementation at the cost of the dwellings and livelihood of lakhs of families that face displacement and uncertainty”, he said.

A curtain on failures

BJP State president K. Surendran said the government made Governor Arif Mohammed Khan read out a slew of lies, false claims, and bombast. The government hid that it had incurred a debt of ₹3.90 lakh crore without anything to show on the development front. It attempted to draw a curtain of its abject failures by wrongly blaming the Centre.

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