Kerala on Friday announced a ₹20,000 crore package to tide over the crisis brought about by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and also set aside ₹1,000 crore to provide free Covid-19 vaccination for adults in the state. Kerala finance minister KN Balagopal said, while presenting the budget of the new Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, that an additional ₹500 crore would also be spent to ensure related equipment and facilities for free Covid-19 vaccination.
“In the early days of the pandemic, a Covid package of ₹20,000 crore was announced to help those affected by Covid restrictions, including lockdowns, especially workers. In the wake of the second wave, the second Covid package of ₹20,000 crore is being announced to address the emerging health, social and economic challenges,” Balagopal said, according to news agency ANI.
“The package provides ₹2,800 crore for health emergencies, ₹8,900 crore for direct disbursement to people, and ₹8,300 crore for various loans and interest subsidies aimed at financial revival,” he added.
Balagopal said the effort would be to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensure there is no third wave of the coronavirus disease in the state. “We will consider the concerns over the third wave of the pandemic. The health emergency existing is a challenge to the development prospects of the state,” he added.
“The central government is withdrawing from the obligation to vaccinate persons above 18 years of age. But the state government cannot shirk its primary responsibility. Therefore, I set apart ₹1,000 crore for the purchase of free vaccine for all those above 18 years of age and ₹500 crore for the purchase of allied equipment. A flawless system will be planned for the distribution of the vaccine,” said the finance minister in the state assembly.
In the agricultural sector, Balagopal promised infrastructure refinancing from National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) to Primary Co-operative Societies (PACS) at a 4% interest rate to be made available through Kerala Bank. “The aim is to provide loans of ₹2,000 crore in the financial year 2021-22. The government will also provide low-interest rate loans for new ventures in the agro-industrial and service sectors, for the revival of existing dormant enterprises, and for a new commercial. The target is to provide loans of ₹1600 crore by 2021-22,” Balagopal said.
He said that ₹1,000 crore credit will be provided to Kudumbashree self-help groups through bank loans during the financial year 2021-22.
Kerala on Thursday registered 18,853 fresh coronavirus disease cases, taking the total number of those affected to 25.54 lakh. The toll rose to 9,375 with 153 more deaths.
(With inputs from agencies)