Kerala budget focusses on welfare, keeping social security

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Thiruvananthapuram, Mar 6 (UNI) Social security and welfare in focus, the Kerala government today announced an increase in welfare pensions and came up with new packages for farmers.

Presenting the Budget for 2008-09 in the Assembly, state Finance Minister T M Thomas Issac said all the welfare pensions of those working in the unorganised sectors like agriculture, fishing, coir, cashew and construction, would be increased to Rs 200 per month.

He said the government intended to distribute the pension through banks every month. Noting that the social welfare schemes should be given more prominence, Dr Issac said a social security programme was needed in the state. The old age pension was also increased to Rs 250 per month in the budget.

In the agriculture sector, Dr Issac announced that an 'Agriculture Price Stabilisation Fund Scheme' would be implemented for stabilising the prices of farm produce.

Claiming that ''globalisation had shattered'' the agriculture sector in the state, he said the Agriculture Price Stabilisation Fund Scheme would be a milestone in this regard.

The Budget also announced forming a welfare scheme for farmers and allotted Rs one crore for the pilot project. The 'Kisanshree' scheme would be popularised during this fiscal. The budget also allotted Rs 20 crore for giving subsidy for paddy cultivation, group farming and cultivating in barren lands.

The government also allotted Rs 50 crore for farmer's debt relief.

In the health sector, Dr Issac announced a health insurance of Rs 25 crore for all sections of the people Below Poverty Line. He also announced that a 'Kerala Health Insurance Programme' would be introduced in the state, which would cover all the people, irrespective of their financial situation. The scheme would be launched in Kollam and Alappuzha districts.

For ''Kudumbasree'', the budget allocation was Rs 30 crore. He said the loans for Kudumbasree, available from financial institutions, would be increased to Rs 1,500 crore.

For cashew industry, the budget had allotted Rs 65.5 crore. In the coir industry, the Coirfed will be given Rs two crore for its revival.

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