//Farmers in Kerala to get pension

Farmers in Kerala to get pension

Thiruvananthapuram: In a major pre-poll exercise, the Kerala government Friday announced a tax-free budget with a slew of sops including pension for farmers aged over 60. There was relief galore for non-resident Indians (NRIs), government employees as well as the tourism and agriculture sectors. Also announced were welfare schemes for tribals and fishing community.

The nearly two million NRIs from Kerala have reason to cheer as Finance Minister V. Purushothaman announced the setting up of an exclusive economic zone for non-resident entrepreneurs and businessmen so that they could effectively channelise their resources for investment. The minister also announced setting up of three NRI clubs at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode.  With assembly elections poised for May, Purushothaman introduced a Rs.700,000 accident insurance scheme for all government employees. He also announced that government employees would get enhanced rates of dearness allowance in March on the basis of the latest pay revision. A special loan scheme was launched for buying computers for government employees.

Several tax sops were announced to lend fillip to tourism. The hospitality industry too received tax reprieve, with the government declaring that hotels other than those with bars would be exempt from the provisions of the Kerala Value Added Tax on food items up to Rs.500,000.  Hotels in the over three star category can now compound their tax liability on cooked food. Houseboats could opt for compound tax in place of the flat 10 percent in vogue currently. Purushothaman, presenting his second budget, announced that the revenue deficit was of the order of Rs.40.7 billion.

He announced setting up a Rs.500 million agricultural resurgence fund to help farmers increase productivity. All farmers above the age of 60 would get pension, provided they do not receive any other pension or salary.  And everyone aged over 50 belonging to the five Most Backward and Primitive tribes would also get pension.  Fisherfolk were made eligible for educational concessions for their children.