Extravaganza in place of Austerity- The Kerala Style.
Kerala is passing through a crucial social, political and financial crisis and the recent spread of COVID 19, has enhanced its gravity resulting in social lock down and Financial stagnation. This is a time when all of us must co-operate and associate with the various Government agencies to get over the Corona crisis and to bring the state functioning on the right path. The rich and the middle class will manage, lock down; but the poor and the daily workers are the worst hit. Of course, the initiatives of the Central and Sate Governments to protect the population from the increasing corona spread and to feed the needy deserve appreciation and we all have to contribute in our own ways to support the Government, whole heartedly.
It is in this context that the Kerala finance minister had initiated salary cut for the legislatures and Government employees. The members of legislative assembly and Parliament have periodically increased their salary and allowances by themselves and have ensured their pension, medical benefits and other perks for life, with out any rhyme or reason.
The number of Government employees have geometrically increased both during the UDF and LDF Governments. The present lock down has clearly shown that the Govt. will run more efficiently with less or no employees in most of the departments.
The salary cut and the resultant income is intended to be utilised for stabilising the already weak exchequer of the State. The State debt has risen to 2,40, 000 crores from 1.20 lakh crores, during the LDF rule and it is heading from bad to worse, due to arbitrary, unrealistic and wasteful expenditure, indulged in by our Finance Minister. While the salary cut is justifiable under the present context, the experience of the public tells a different story.
We have survived two major Natural disasters in the recent years and the State spending of both Central Fund received , and Chief Minister’s fund, specifically designed for the purpose have been mostly for political gains. Clearing the debt of a deceased MLA, Family assistance of 25 lakhs to the family of a deceased party President, Compensation for party workers, selective payments to party men, misappropriation etc., are a few of such instances. At the very same time, holding back the payment of minimum Rs. 10,000/- to the deserving persons till this date, reveals the politics of using C M’s fund.
It is in this context that the officials are reluctant to contribute voluntarily. On one side the Finance Minister is crying day in and day out for Central Government assistance to get over every self-created crisis, he has failed miserably to spend the money received, do basic homework and set the things in order, before asking for more funds.
Some of the incredibly significant areas of mindless expenditure includes the huge army of officials in the Secretariat, which has more staff than the bigger states like Karnataka and UP. Apart from them, all the 20 ministers, speaker, opposition leader and Chief whip, are all having an army of 25 Personal staff each, all paid well and assured of pension after two years of service. They are also promptly replaced after two years and new team of party men is inducted in, to ensure pay and pension for life, to them also. While a Government employee with prescribe qualification must work for 25 years to get full pension, these personal staff without any prescribed qualification are getting pension after two years. This is indeed an unfair deal.
The number of PSC members is yet another area which should be attended to. While the bigger State like Madhya Pradesh have only three members, and UPSC, 10, we have 21 of them, all politically nominated and who are getting salary between 1.5 lakhs to 2 lakhs per month with all allowances and 50% pension for life.
The Cabinet rank given to the Chairman, administrative Reforms Commission, Forward Development Commission, Advocate General and Special Representative in Delhi, with attractive perks, are taking crores of rupees from our exchequer without any benefit to the State. The additional 8 advisors to the chief Minister is yet another wasteful expenditure.
There are 140 Government prosecutors in the High Court alone, headed by Advocate General, Additional advocate General, and Director General Prosecution. Still eminent advocates from Delhi and Bombay are being engaged to represent the Government in most of the cases. It is also a fact that in 75% of the cases pending before the High court, State Government is a party. These cases are the result of wrong or illegal decisions taken by the executive. There are almost 2 lakh cases pending in the high Court and it will take a minimum of 25 years to clear the pendency at the present rate of disposal. It is high time that the Government constitute a legal cell to settle maximum number of cases, out of Court, and to reduce the number of Prosecutors and to save crores of rupees thereby.
Coming to the Industries Department, with 110 Public Sector Enterprises, Kerala can boast of having the largest number of Public Sector under takings in India. Of these only a handful of them are occasionally making profit and the accumulated loss is a staggering 27000 crores. Our KSRTC alone makes a record loss of 100 crores per month and it is funny that we still retain them for political reasons.
To bring development and industrialisation, we have the
Most of the Companies engaged in identical or similar products can be merged for better productivity and economy and the R.C. Choudhury Report in this regard is gathering dust in the Secretariat.
This apart, if any investor foolishly starts any business here, he is promptly labelled as Capitalist / Bourgeoise and shutters pulled down at the earliest. The much publicised cases of Mr. Sajan, who started a convention centre, and Mr. Sugathan, who started a workshop at Trichur, both NRIs, have to commit suicide due to political harassment by the ruling parties and the ongoing strike at Muthoot are just a few examples in this regard.
One wonders as to why we should have an Industries department at all, with a large band of officials headed by the Industries Minister, who could do nothing in the above cases, is really a intriguing paradox. Perhaps it is only intended to be a decorative post, like having an Admiral in Nepal, where there is no sea at all.
It is also informed in the State Assembly that more than Twenty Thousand crores of rupees remain to be collected by the Government by way tax, electricity and water charges etc. But this is conveniently neglected at this crucial time.
Hiring a Helicopter for a rent of 1.44 crores per month is yet another extravaganza committed by the Government. This drains the exchequer of another 24 crores per year, as GST, accommodation, and maintenance of the crew is also our responsibility.
To win over the media, project the image of the Chief Minister and to avoid unpleasant questions during the daily evening briefing, and during the unique programme – Naam Munnottu – the Government has committed 6.37 crores per year and for five years, to the various media, making the total of 31.85 crores of rupees. For organising these shows, Kairali Channel is given a liberal allowance of 2.25 lakhs per episode, for 5 years, which works out to 5.85 crores. Further for promoting the CMs web site and propaganda through social media, another contract has been executed with an out-side agency for 4.23 crores. These wasteful expenditures are done when we have the All India Radio and Door Darshan to convey news to the public and we have an army of more than 100 competent officials in Public Relations Department and C-Dit each.
Again, Rs.700 Crores is allotted for Constructing Cultural Centre in all the 14 districts of the State. While our per capita debt is Rs.70, 000 / head, we are taking loan after loan from all over the place, at an incredibly high rate of 8.5 to 9% for fifteen years, which means that we are putting our future generation also in perpetual debt.
When the Government could not give the Immediate relief amount of 10,000/- to the flood relief victims, 100 towels @ of 750 /- (Rs. 75,000) is purchased for the ministers.!!! Have our ministers become so bankrupt to buy it for themselves?
On the whole, by doing basic financial management and adopting appropriate austerity measures, we can easily mobilise a minimum of 65,000 crores to get over our financial crises with ease. Will propriety and good sense prevail on our Hon. Finance Minister is the billion-dollar question. Let us hope for the best.