Capital city of Kerala is decorated and illuminated for the week-long Keraleeyam program. People are being asked to celebrate in a state where a scary financial crisis is prevailing. Despite severe economic crisis and insufficient funds in the state treasury, the government of Kerala is enhancing the lavishness of the Keraleeyam program.
There is no money in the treasury to pay salaries and pensions to current and former employees of the state-run Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). Farmers are yet to receive their paddy procurement dues from the government for five months. Pensioners are in pathetic situation as their pensions for months are pending. Many pensioners have died before being paid pension reform arrears.
The list of the pending dues the Kerala state government has accumulated is long but they are celebrating Keraleeyam program at an expense of Rs 27.12 crore, without any remorse. How can the state finance department sanction such huge fund for the extravagant Keraleeyam program when the state treasury is already facing a shortage of funds?
Dues are to be paid by the government to private hospitals on account of the Karunya medical aid scheme for the poor. The compensation owed to the victims of Endosulfan in Kasaragod remains unpaid. School Headmasters who have borne the expenses of providing midday meals in schools are yet to receive their dues. The government also carries a liability of Rs 3,000 crore related to the distribution of free food kits during the Covid pandemic.
These represent just a fraction of the outstanding liabilities that the Kerala Government is yet to settle. Treasuries have not been clearing any bill above Rs 5 lakh for some time now. Even the bills below that amount are taking time to be cleared.
So how is the Kerala Government able to organize and execute a massive program like Keraleeyam spending such an enormous amount of money? Where did they gather the fund from? Questions are now arising regarding the government’s priorities. Is this the time to host such an event?
Incidents and cases of corruption are nothing new in Kerala. It appears that, to divert the attention of public from one corruption controversy, another one is created. It is a never ending process. It is shameful that Kerala, referred to as God’s own country, is reportedly ranked as one of the most corrupted states in India. Reports of extensive corruption have surfaced within state-run establishments including Kerala Public Service Commission, Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF), Cooperative Banks, AI cameras, BEVCO, to name just a few.
Ensuring law and order in Kerala is another serious concern for the state. Numerous incidents are reported daily, and unfortunately, many of these cases have not been thoroughly investigated due to a shortage of police personnel. However, there appears to be no lack of security for the Keraleeyam program, as the government has implemented strong security measures for the festivities. 19 DYSPs, 25 inspectors, 200 SIs, over 1,000 police personnel and over 250 police personnel from the women’s battalion are deployed for supervision. Apart from this, the services of 300 volunteers have also been enlisted to support these efforts.
The Keraleeyam program comprises a diverse range of activities, including seminars, exhibitions, trade fairs, food festivals, book festivals, cultural events, flower shows, street performances, and cultural showcases arranged in 40 venues to showcase the ‘Best of Kerala’. The budget allocation for this includes Rs. 9.39 crore for the exhibition, Rs. 2.97 crore for lighting decorations, Rs. 3.14 crores for cultural programs, and Rs. 7.77 crore for various celebration committees.
Fifteen main committees and sub-committees have been granted the discretion to spend these funds as they see fit. The allocation of funds for various committees is as follows:
Seminar – Rs 2,00,000
Cultural programs – Rs 3,14,80,575,
Food festival – Rs 85,00,000
Reception, Accommodation – Rs 1,81,58,400
Trade fair – Rs 69,86,600
Exhibition – Rs 9,39,00,000
Light shows – Rs 2,97,50,000
Film festival – Rs 60,00,000
Sponsorship – Rs 1,00,000
Security – Rs 31,17,000
Volunteers – Rs 35,91,000
Transport – Rs 1,98,00,000
Media and campaigns – Rs 3,98,62,000
Programs – Rs 16,09,000
Kerala has been constantly requesting additional borrowing capacity from the central government. If this pattern persists, the state could find itself in a precarious situation where borrowing is primarily used for the repayment of existing debt. Even though the state’s own institutions have sounded this warning, the government continues to overspend, leading to a more severe economic crisis. The Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation, a state-run institution, has identified an alarming increase in the state’s public debt.
Who are to blame if the people of Kerala have lost trust in the government, its ministers and the law enforcers!