Covid time demands a budget with compassion and care: Kerala shows the way

Jun 14 2021 05:59 AM
Covid time demands a budget with compassion and care: Kerala shows the way

Jacob Peenikaparambil: Kerala has been in the forefront of the states in India in many areas like education, health care, disaster management including Covid 19, people-oriented development approach etc. The Kerala government also demonstrated the uniqueness of Kerala in presenting a budget that is responsive to lakhs of people who are infected and affected by the deadly coronavirus.

While presenting the revised budget in the Kerala Assembly, the state Finance Minister K N Balgopal said that the Rs. 20,000 core package is meant to face the socioeconomic and health challenges emerging in the backdrop of the second wave of Covid-19. In other words, the budget was designed, taking into account the exigencies created by Covid 19, and in view of providing the much needed support to the people.

The Kerala budget includes Rs. 20,000 crore Covid package. A major highlight of the budget is a proposed investment of Rs. 2,800 crore in the health infrastructure to face a possible third wave of the pandemic, despite Kerala having better public healthcare facilities compared to other states in India. Against the backdrop of the central government putting the burden of purchasing vaccines for those above 18 years, the budget allotted Rs. 1,000 core for this purpose and Rs. 500 core for purchase of allied equipment.

Out of the Rs. 20,000 Covid package, Rs. 8,900 core is earmarked for people in crisis due to loss of livelihood, and Rs. 8,300 core towards interest subsidy of loans to provide for economic revival. The Kerala budget announced a self-employment scheme to rehabilitate expatriate workers from Kerala who lost their jobs, and to equip them to begin self-employment enterprises. It is also proposed to formulate a loan scheme for making available fuel efficient and eco-friendly electric two-wheelers and automobiles to people who use two-wheelers for their work.

The governments that come to power in Kerala from time to time are in a way forced to become sensitive to the needs of the people and become accountable to them because of various reasons. High level of political consciousness is the first reason. With 96.2% literacy the people of Kerala are aware of their rights, and they cannot be easily hoodwinked by the political parties by harping on emotive issues. The results of the recent assembly election in Kerala amply demonstrate that people of Kerala do not approve of the political parties playing on their emotions and creating divisions in the name of religion.

Secondly, Kerala has a tradition of people centred development approach, focusing on education, health care, devolution of powers to local self governments and empowering people’s organizations like Kudumbasree. People of Kerala do not tolerate spending taxpayers’ money on ostentatious projects and the governments do not venture into such misadventures.

Thirdly, because of the influence of the leftist ideology and higher levels of education, people have developed critical thinking and they are able to assess objectively to a great extent the policies and actions of political parties. The media in general present public opinion without fear instead of being subservient to the government. Media also plays a healthy role in creating unbiased public opinion. These factors make the political parties in power accountable to the people.

One of the important lessons taught by Covid 19 is that India has to ramp up its health infrastructure by investing more on the health sector. What other states can learn from Kerala and replicate in their respective areas is investing in human resource development, focusing on healthcare, education and strengthening local self governments and people’s participation in the development process.

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