Dr. N. Ajith Kumar (Dirctor, CSES)
This analysis of the 2021-22 Kerala Budget was published in the Times of India on 16.01.2021
The state’s budget for the year 2021-22 was presented in one of the most difficult times amid a slowdown in the economy and the pandemic. The budget, however, tried to wriggle out of the situation through some bold steps. First and foremost, the focus given in the budget on improving the quality of higher education in the state is laudable.
It is essential that the state should concentrate on creating employment opportunities in knowledge-intensive sectors inside and outside the state as it faces several constraints in developing other types of industries. The FM has given the much needed, long-awaited attention to this sector and made provisions for infrastructural and human resource development to lay the foundation for such a change. But obviously, the higher education system, particularly the faculty and other staff, have to gear up to take it forward to ensure that the graduates coming out from our universities and colleges acquire the necessary capabilities.
The idea of constituting attractive post-doctoral scholarships to augment the resources for research and development is also innovative. It is expected to attract Malayali talents working abroad and in other states to work on issues relevant for Kerala. The FM has also shown the vision to integrate higher education with the state’s employment scenario and the need for innovations.
It is heartening to note that the budget has given strong focus on the extreme poor among us. The budget estimates that there will be about 5 lakh such households, which include 1.5 lakh beneficiaries of the existing Ashraya scheme. Apart from the Rs 40 crore allocated for the Ashraya scheme, Rs 100 crore has been proposed in the budget for the scheme. The budget also provides additional funds for hunger-free Kerala.
Another vulnerable group which received attention in the budget is the elderly. The highlight is the scheme for supplying medicines at the door steps of the elderly at a discounted rate. Other proposals like increasing the social security pension to Rs 1,600 and increasing the number of geriatric clubs for elderly, run by local governments, are also worth-mentioning.
Another vulnerable group which received attention in the budget is persons with disabilities. Starting of 250 BUDS schools and more special schools are welcome steps. However, making our public institutions and services disabled-friendly requires much more funds if the commitment under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 is to be fulfilled.