Kerala budget: Interest-free loans, smart health cards among sops announced

Kerala govt's interest-free loans would increase the inflow of credit to the agricultural sector by Rs 2,000 crore.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: March 13, 2015 6:22:11 pm
kerala budget, K M Mani Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani presenting the state budget amid a protest in the Assembly in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday. (Source: PTI)

Interest-free short term agricultural loans,  launching of smart health card for weaker sections and introduction of e-services in government departments are some of the major highlights of the Kerala budget tabled by Finance Minister K M Mani in the Assembly on Friday.

Mani claimed Kerala was the first state to offer interest-free loans to farmers, which would increase the inflow of credit to the agricultural sector by an additional Rs 2,000 crore. The Centre is now offering 3 per cent subsidy on interest for prompt repayment of farm loans. The rest of the interest would be borne by the state government.

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The budget also envisages streamlining of various health insurance and welfare schemes offered to the weaker sections of the society. Accordingly, patients from BPL families would be given smart health card which would enable them to avail health care facilities at private and government hospitals after online processing of the data. The flagship project named Sampoorna Arogya Keralam would augment the public health infrastructure.

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Another major highlight of the budget is the rolling out of e-services in all departments whose services have been notified under the Right to Service Act 2012. This would bring government services and certificates to the doorstep of the public. About 50 per cent of the notified services would be brought under e-services programme. In this regard, the government is planning to leverage on the national optic fibre network, being implemented in the state.

The budget said the government would introduce three new schemes for providing housing for 1.75 lakh BPL families. District-level housing boards would be formed and pre-fabrication technology would be adopted for the housing project.

Kerala government’s budget outlay for welfare schemes and pensions has recorded an increase of nearly 600 per cent in last six years. If the outlay on all welfare schemes and pensions was Rs 484.14 crore in 2010-11 fiscal, the revised estimates for welfare measures for the current fiscal has touched a sum of Rs. 2710 crore.

In the next financial year, the government would further widen the welfare schemes by launching an innovative “elder citizens care programme” for those above 80. Under the scheme, the state government and local bodies would work together to meet the health, living and housing expenses of abandoned elderly citizens.

Mani has announced an infrastructure fund of Rs 2,000 crore, but many of the infra projects identified for private investment are stuck in various troubles. The budget has made an outlay of Rs 600 crore for the proposed Vizhinjam international container transshipment terminal, which is yet to find a private bidder.

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