Pinarayi Vijayan govt completes a year: 9 first-in-India steps taken in Kerala
Bengaluru: Kerala’s Communist government, led by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, celebrates the first anniversary of coming to power on Thursday. During its one-year tenure, the government has taken some small but significant steps. Here’s a list of some of the first-in-India steps that the state government took during this period.
In its first budget, presented on 8 July 2016, the government introduced a first-of-its-kind “fat tax” on burgers, pizzas, doughnuts and tacos served and sold in branded fast-food restaurants in the state. The decision was taken more in the light of a health impact, than to boost revenue, the government held.
1,000 free public Wi-Fi hotspots and free internet for 20 lakh poor households
In its first full budget in March, the government announced a Rs1,000 crore scheme to provide free internet to 20 lakh poor households and to set up 1,000 free public Wi-Fi hotspots across the state. The idea is to make internet access a citizen’s right, said finance minister Thomas Isaac, while presenting the budget.
Health insurance for migrants
In another first-of-its-kind move, the Left Democratic Front government announced a medical insurance scheme called “Awaz” to benefit 34 lakh migrant workers in the state. The idea behind the scheme is to incentivize registration as well as working in Kerala, Mint reported on 4 July 2016.
Hiring transgenders for Kochi Metro
Kochi Metro, Kerala’s first metro train service built under a public private partnership model, is hiring 60 persons from the transgender community, in a move to tackle prejudice and to bring transgender people into the mainstream. Already, 23 people have been hired as the metro is likely to commence this month-end. This is for the first time that a government-owned company in the state is providing bulk employment to members of the third gender, Hindustan Times reported on 15 May . The 2017 budget allocated Rs10 crore for the welfare of the transgender community and announced schemes for including them in old-age pensions, and educational and medical benefits. The state also hosted a sports meeting exclusively for transgenders, a first-of-its-kind in the country in April.
Sanitary pad vending machine in schools
Kerala has become the first state to ensure the installation of sanitary napkin vending machines in all schools with the implementation of a Rs30 crore project called “She Pad” starting from this academic year. The decision is a move to empower young, school-going women in a state of that has above 90% literacy. “Menstrual hygiene is a right for every women. We are implementing ‘She Pad’ scheme to distribute healthy and clean sanitary pads to all school students across the state. In order to dispose used napkins in an eco-friendly manner, will also distribute napkin destroyers along with the scheme,” Vijayan said in a Facebook post on 17 May.
Special textbooks for differently abled students
On 22 May, the CM released special textbooks for differently abled students to be taught in state schools in the coming academic year, a first such exercise in the country, reported The Hindu newspaper. The textbooks were prepared using suggestions of doctors, psychologists and experts in the field of children’s education. “There are almost two dozen types of physical and mental disabilities among children. Our effort is to address them one by one,” said J. Prasad, director of State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), which prepared the textbooks, as per the report.
Rs900 crore education loan repayment scheme
In April, Kerala launched a Rs900 crore loan repayment scheme to help students from families with annual income below Rs6 lakh repay their education loans. The move assumes significance as it comes at a time when students are suffering because of banks selling a large number of its “bad loans”, or loans that have turned non-performing assets or NPAs, to asset reconstruction companies (ARCs), which may charge a higher interest rate in turn. Such incidents have become a major stress area for financially backward students who are finding themselves in a debt trap after taking an education loan to pursue higher studies, said finance minister Isaac.
Electrification of every home
CM Vijayan will declare Kerala a fully electrified state in the country in Kozhikode district on 29 May, on the sidelines of an event to celebrate the government’s first anniversary. Around 1.30 lakh households, including 40,000 scheduled caste and 20,000 scheduled tribe households, have been electrified under the project, reported The New Indian Express on 1 April. As per the budget, Rs174 crore was spent towards the scheme. In fact, Kerala achieved total electrification long ago, going by the Central government’s norms for total electrification, but the state went to the more micro level to ensure that every household is electrified, The Hindu reported on 20 May in a story explaining the nuts and bolts of the scheme.
Open defecation free
On 1 November, Vijayan declared Kerala as an open defecation-free (ODF) state, making it the first among India’s populous states to build about 200,000 toilets at a cost of over Rs400 crore. So far, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh, two relatively small states, have been able to officially declare themselves free from open defecation. The end of open defecation is also supposed to mark the start of a bigger goal—to become India’s cleanest state with 100% sanitation, Mint reported on 23 August.