Allocation for Bandipur elevated highway in Ker budget

Allocation for Bandipur elevated highway in Ker budget

Flood and Sabarimala gets special mentions

An aerial view shows partially submerged houses at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala. Reuters file photo

The Kerala Budget for 2019-20 financial year presented on Thursday by Minister Thomas Isaac earmarked a package of Rs. 1,000 crore for rebuilding the state that was hit by major floods in August 2018, and Rs. 400 core for various development works at Sabarimala temple.

The Budget designates to bear half of the estimated cost of Rs. 500 crore for the elevated highway at Bandipur and Wayanad sanctuaries on NH 766 connecting Kerala and Karnataka.

The Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways mooted the project as a solution to the night traffic ban along the Bandipur tiger reserve. Though the Kerala government has agreed to the proposal, Karnataka government is wary about it citing threats to elephants and tigers.

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Various commodities ranging from gold to liquor are set to become costlier owing to imposition of additional taxes, including flood cess for two years that was approved by the GST Council.

Attacking the Sangh Parivar outfits indirectly, Isaac accused that some vested interest groups made the Sabarimala women entry issue a golden opportunity for communal polarisation and thereby destroying the unity among people engendered during the floods. He also alleged that attempts were made to destroy Sabarimala by making a call for not making offerings at the temple, which resulted in a decline in the revenue of the temple. Special financial assistance of Rs. 100 crore to the Travancore Devaswom Board that manages the hill shrine is announced to cope with the loss.

The Minister said that Tirupati model facilities for pilgrims will be made at Sabarimala. The budget earmarked Rs. 200 crore for development of roads at Sabarimala and nearly Rs. 200 crore for setting up basic amenities at Pamba and Nilakkal. Over the years, the Kerala government has spent Rs. 739 crore for development for Sabarimala temple. Basic infrastructure amenities at Sabarimala base camps suffered heavy damage in the floods in 2018.

In a bid to raise additional revenue of Rs. 600 crore for rebuilding flood-hit areas, a 0.25% flood cess will be levied on all goods like gold, silver and platinum ornaments. One per cent calamity cess is imposed on all items in the 12%, 18% and 28% GST slabs, which would include a range of products and services like packed foods, mobile phones and air-conditioned restaurants. Luxury tax of six per cent was also imposed on luxury houses that are above 3,000 square feet. The tax of liquor, beer and wine was also increased by two per cent.

Push to electric vehicles and LED bulbs

The Kerala Budget also gave a push to the efforts to increase the number of electric vehicles to ten lakh by 2022 by offering tax rebates to electric vehicles. It proposes to change all buses of the state-owned Road Transport Corporation in Thiruvananthapuram city to electric buses soon. If implemented, Thiruvananthapuram will be the first city in India where the state-owned transport corporation relies completely on e-buses. KSRTC is also planning to shift completely to e-buses in due course considering the profit such buses earned during the recent services at Sabarimala, the minister said.

Isaac also came out with a project to replace all the filament bulbs and CFL bulbs in the household with LED bulbs. The cost of the bulbs needs to be paid by consumers only from the savings in the power bills.

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