Kerala govt widens welfare net in poll-oriented Budget

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Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 10 (PTI) With just a few monthsleft before Assembly polls in the state, the CPI(M)-led LDFgovernment today unveiled an election-oriented Budget thatpromised enhanced spending on welfare and social securityschemes, while sparing the people of fresh taxes.

Presenting the Budget for 2011-12 in the Assembly,Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac stepped up the allocationfor price-control programmes and proposed a long-terminfrastructure development programme.

Apart from raising the minimum welfare pension to Rs 400for a broad spectrum of the less privileged, the Budget alsoannounced a welfare scheme for domestic aides, the vastmajority of whom are women.

A similar scheme will be introduced for employees inunaided educational institutions, including tutorial collegesand paramedical staff in private hospitals.

What is more, Isaac announced the roll-out of aneducational endowment scheme under which Rs 10,000 will beearmarked for every newborn child.

Besides bringing four million BPL families under the Rs 2per kg rice scheme, Rs 100 crore was provisioned in the Budgetto bolster the supply of essential items through over 3,000PDS outlets.

A comprehensive package for improving the quality ofroads and bridges in the state and building new ones,involving a total outgo of Rs 40,000 crore, was also proposed.

Out of this outlay, a sum of Rs 1,000 crore has been earmarkedin the Budget for work in 2011-12.

Claiming that the V S Achuthanandan government had putthe state on the growth trajectory in the last five years,Isaac said its policies gave equal thrust for both welfare anddevelopment.

Himself an economist, Isaac countered the critics of hispolicies by holding that the state''s income was growing by 14to 15 per cent.

The Congress-led opposition UDF, however, dubbed theBudget an "eye wash" that dented the credibility of the annualexercise.

"This is an attempt to win the applause of the peoplewith an eye on the elections," Opposition leader Oommen Chandysaid.

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