Kerala Finance Minister asks opposition UDF to fight for state's rights

Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal on Thursday told the Assembly that the state government was yet to pay the social welfare pension for five months and asked the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) to stand with them to demand the dues from the Centre.
Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal
Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal

Thiruvananthapuram | Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal on Thursday told the Assembly that the state government was yet to pay the social welfare pension for five months and asked the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) to stand with them to demand the dues from the Centre.

Balagopal, while rejecting the UDF's demand to adjourn the House proceedings and discuss the issue of pending social welfare pensions, said the dues will be cleared soon and the disbursal for the month of June has started.

Moving the motion, MLA P C Vishnunath, said the government says there is no fund to pay for the social welfare pension, but there was enough funds for extravaganzas like Nava Kerala Sadas and other matters.

In his reply, the minister said currently around Rs 900 crore per month is being disbursed as social welfare pensions in the state.

"We have already discussed the same matter in the last session. We all know about the financial strangulation by the Central government. In the last three months, four installments of welfare pensions were disbursed. Rs 8,000 has been given to each of the around 60 lakh beneficiaries," Balagopal told the House.

He said the Left government has given pensions for 109 months within the last 96 months, which includes the pending amount from the previous Congress-led UDF government.

Balagopal said the UDF had stayed away from the Left government's demand for a joint protest against the Union Government's alleged financial strangulations, citing the Lok Sabha elections.

"Now that the elections are over and you (UDF) have won, we would like to know whether you are ready to fight for the rights of the state," Balagopal asked.

He was referring to IUML leader and MLA P K Kunhalikutty's earlier statement that the UDF was staying away from the protest due to the Lok Sabha elections.

Based on the explanation given by Balagopal, the Speaker denied permission for the opposition's adjournment motion.

Protesting against the denial of permission to adjourn the House, the opposition staged a walkout.

Leader of Opposition, V D Satheesan, said the Left government had cheated the people by claiming that they would increase the social welfare pension to Rs 2,500 from Rs 1,600.

"Not only have that you (the Left government) failed to give pensions for the past six months, you have also cheated the people by claiming that the pension will be increased to Rs 2,500," he said.

Satheesan said the state government does not have enough money to pay the pensions.

"We will continue to raise our voice for the poor and downtrodden in society. We will continue to fight against the government, which is not prioritising the people and the pension," he added.

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