By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It is no mean achievement. Despite the heavy odds against it, Kerala’s economy has registered a strong recovery in 2021-22 with the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) posting a 12.01 per cent.
What is remarkable about the feat is that the recovery has come after a negative 8.43 per cent recorded during the pandemic-plagued 20-20-21. The growth is the highest posted since 2012-13. This was made possible through a counter-cyclical fiscal policy implemented through various stimulus packages, according to the Economic Review 2022 published last week.
Growth across various sectors witnessed a positive trend over the previous fiscal year. Agriculture and allied sectors clocked a growth of 4.64 per cent in 2021-22 as against 0.24 in 2020-21, industry from -2.82 per cent to 3.87 per cent and the service sector from -14.44 per cent to 17.3 per cent in 2021-22. The period also saw the fiscal dipping to 4.11 per cent and revenue deficit to 2.29 per cent. Besides, the annual public debt growth rate declined from 14.34 per cent to 10. 16 per cent and the public debt-GSDP ratio from 25.90 per cent to 24.26 per cent in 2021-22 compared to the previous fiscal. Most impressive has been the fact that the tax growth rate, which had plummeted to -5.29 per cent because of Covid-19 bounced back to 22.41 per cent. The Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) completed 101 out of the 928 construction works which were sanctioned. KIIFB also released Rs 8459.47 crore for project funding compared to Rs 5,484.88 crore in the previous fiscal.
Topping the list of development projects which have made headway is the Kerala Government’s prestigious flagship project Kerala Fibre Optic Network (K-FON). The scheme aims to provide internet connection to 20 lakh Below Poverty Line (BPL) households in the State. And ensure universal internet access and address the problems of digital divide. The project, which will cost Rs 1548 crore, is being implemented by a consortium of firms led by Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL). Under the project, a venture of equal partnership between Kerala State Information Technology (KSITIL) and the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), 30,000 km of fibre optic cable will be laid covering all parts of the State.
The cable is being laid using the existing network of KSEB which has a network capacity of 2 lakh km in the State. As much as 80 per cent of the network is already in place and 2,600 government offices have been connected. Work has progressed at a fast pace inspite of the pandemic and natural calamities like floods and water-logging.
The Government has made impressive strides in the field of education. The accent in school education has been on improving school infrastructure. Enrolment has recorded a big rise. The total number of new students who sought admission in Government and aided schools for the last five years is 8,26,929. The significant aspect of this feat is the erasing of the perception that government schools are qualitatively poor. Positive steps have also been taken on development of inclusive education, free uniform, mid-day meals, financial assistance for meeting expenses towards travelling, hostel facilities and excursion of students are also provided to promote them. Moreover, to ensure inclusive education, audio books for visually challenged were developed along with sign adapted classes for hearing impaired students of Class 10 to 12.
In Public health care, the focus has been on providing accessible, equitable, affordable and quality health care services for all. As for health indicators, Kerala is at the top of the table. Kerala is the only bigger state with single digit infant mortality rate (IMR) of 6, whereas it is 28 at the all India level. The State has the lowest MMR (19) among the states while the MMR at national level is 97. Life expectancy at birth in the state is 75 and is higher than the national level (70). Under the Aardram Mission Programme, Kerala has made good progress. In fact, Kerala is the only State where the database of 2,59,55,975 people has been collected and stored as electronic records. This includes 68,34,845 houses, 1,26,83,841 males and 1,32,71,318 females and 816 transgenders.
Mention must also be made of the The K-Smart project which aims to bring about a massive transformation in the delivery of services from urban bodies to the public. The project will initially be launched o a pilot basis in Kochi and Kannur Corporations and the Attingal, Thathamangalam, Thodupuzha, Cherthala, Kodungallur and Anthur municipalities. In the initial phase, birth and death registrations, trade licences and public grievance redress applications will be available through K-Smart. All other services are set to be integrated by the end of the year when the application will be launched across all urban bodies. Citizens will be able to access the K-Smart project through a mobile application.
Mobile App for Migrant Workers: The Government is readying for launch in April “Athidhi”, a mobile app which will link migrant workers in the state and provide each with a unique identification number. The app is being developed by the Comprehensive Health Insurance Agency of Kerala (CHIAK), a nodal agency under the Labour Ministry. The Government has allotted Rs 40 lakh for the app. According to a State Planning Board study, there are 31 lakh migrant workers in the State, majority of them working in building and construction.
Land Records to Landholders in Malabar: The State Government has decided to issue land records to thousands of landholders in North Kerala who have not been able to own the land they possess because of their inability to pay the tax for the unassessed land. The decision of the Revenue Department will enable the landholders to pay the basic land tax and become the real owners of their land.
Boost to Millet Cultivation: In view of the recent surge in demand for millet, the state government is considering steps t increase the acreage under cultivation to 3,500 hectares. Of this, 3000 hectares will be in Attappadi tribal belt. The remaining 500 hectares will be divided among 13 states. It may be mentioned that India is also keen to position itself as the global hub for millet. Following this proposal, the United Nations declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
Kerala among states with highest number of colleges: According to the All India Survey of Higher Education*AISHE) 2020-21, Kerala ranks among the highest in terms of the number of colleges and college density in the country. The state has also posted the highest gap between female enrolment to male enrolment in the country. The survey ranks the State 10th for the highest number of colleges (1,448). It has a college density (number of colleges per lakh eligible population in the 18-23 age group) of 50 to be ranked third with Himachal Pradesh after Karnataka (62) and Telangana (53), while the national average is 31.
These impressive gains demolish the misinformation being peddled by the Opposition parties and other detractors of the LDF Government day in and day out with the active assistance of anti-LDF media. But the malicious propaganda of the LDF being anti-development cannot but come to grief as the slew of achievements are self-explanatory. (IPA Service)