January 16, 2021 3:27:47 am
FROM A hike in pensions that will benefit 48 lakh people to laptop schemes for disadvantaged sections and a digital platform that aims to provide 20 lakh jobs, the Left government in Kerala Friday rolled out a series of social welfare measures in the last Budget of its term with three months to go for the Assembly polls.
According to the Budget presented by Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, the monthly social welfare pension has been increased by Rs 100 to Rs 1,600. Laptops will be provided at half-cost to children from the families of fishermen, SCs and Antyodaya households, and at 25 per cent cost for those in the BPL category “to attain the goal of a laptop in all households”.
The big-ticket announcement, however, is the move to set up a digital jobs platform. “We aim to utilise all the possibilities created by work near home and work from home. Opportunities will be created for companies to recruit employees for centralised or decentralised jobs. Details of those professionals and trained persons will be made available on a digital platform,’’ Isaac said while presenting the Budget.
The government will also provide benefits to candidates selected by companies through this platform, he said. These include loans for equipment purchased by state-run financial institutions with government guarantees and work station facility on concessional rent.
The state government will also shoulder the social security liability of those being recruited through the platform, including the employer’s contribution to the Provident Fund. “If PF is not preferred, insurance premium for termination benefit payable on retirement will be paid by the Government. Health insurance will be provided,’’ Isaac said.
For this, the Minister said, the Kerala Development Innovation Strategy Council (K-DISC) will be restructured as a nodal agency for maintaining contact with firms providing jobs, imparting training to job-seekers depending on requirement, maintaining a platform for providing information, and encouraging innovation.
A skill mission would be formed under the K-DISC for imparting training to 50 lakh educated youth, Isaac said.
According to the Finance Minister, 5 lakh women professionals have taken a career break and are staying at home in Kerala. Another 40 lakh educated women, who are outside the labour force and staying at home, will be willing to work from home or a nearer location. Besides, 16 lakh educated youngsters registered with employment exchange are waiting for employment.
“Hence, the total comes to 60 lakh. About 20 lakh of them would be provided jobs within the next five years. The registration for jobs in the digital platform would begin next month,’’ he said.
To create an eco-system for converting Kerala into a knowledge economy, 30 autonomous centres of excellence will be established, he said. The number of students in the higher education sector, which is around 16-17 lakh, will be increased to 20-22 lakh. Around 500 post-doctoral fellowships with a monthly stipend of Rs 1 lakh will also be introduced, Isaac said.
As part of the government’s intervention in the lives of the poor, the Budget has proposed a welfare fund for workers under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Those who work at least 20 days in a year can be enrolled in the Welfare Fund. To eradicate absolute poverty, 4-5 lakh poor families would be identified, he said.
Another highlight of the Budget is the proposed mapping of atrocities against women in all local bodies. Data on where, when and from whom women faced atrocities will be collected, Isaac said. On the basis of this mapping, projects for reducing atrocities against women should be compulsorily included, he said.
With about 5.5 lakh expatriates having returned to Kerala in the wake of the Covid crisis, pension for returned expatriates has been increased to Rs 3,000. Besides, priority will be given to expatriate returnees in four schemes, including digital employment for the educated and loan-based entrepreneurial development programmes.
During 2021-22, Labour Budgets for MGNREGS will be arranged to provide work for at least an average of 75 days. An amount of at least Rs 1,500 crore will be invested jointly by various departments, local bodies and agricultural agencies in the agricultural production sector in 2021-22, Isaac said.
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