THE by-election to the Chengannur assembly constituency, a traditional bastion of the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), has proved that the incumbent LDF government has won the confidence of the people through various development and welfare measures.
CPI(M) candidate Saji Cherian won the by-election with a huge margin of over 20,000 votes. The result was announced on May 31, a day after the culmination of the second anniversary celebrations of the LDF government led by Pinarayi Vijayan.
A day later, the results of the by-elections to 19 local self government seats were announced and the LDF won 12 seats.
The LDF's effort for overall development of Kerala has reflected in the people's mandates in these by-elections. The LDF has succeeded in providing a people's alternative to governance, in the midst of the central government’s lethal mixture of communalisation and neo-liberalism.
Being a consumer state, Kerala has suffered a lot with the Centre's anti-people measures such as demonetisation and GST. Kerala became the first state to forego Re 1 per litre of petrol and diesel in the days of spiralling fuel prices.
When most of the states in India witness communal violence in the name of cow vigilantism, Kerala stands out with a peaceful atmosphere. No communal riot was reported in the state for the last two years. When the Hindutva forces tried to tear apart the communal fabric of the state by killing a Moulavi in a mosque in Kasaragod district and a converted Muslim in Malappuram district, the government intervened promptly to capture the culprits in order to maintain the law and order.
Social Security pensions were distributed in a time-bound manner. Financial help of Rs 390 crore was distributed from the chief minister's rehabilitation fund in the last two years.
Rejuvenation of public sector undertakings was the significant achievement of this government. These had been augean stable of corruption and nepotism and suffered losses during the five-year regime of the UDF. Around 15 PSUs have become profit-making industrial units within two years of the LDF rule.
The UDF regime had imposed a blanket ban on new recruitments. Our government lifted the ban and asked all departments to report vacancies to the public service commission. As a result of this, 70,000 posts were filled in a span of two years. 13,000 new posts were also created.
Steps have been taken to set up Kerala Bank by merging State Cooperative Bank and 14 district Cooperative Banks to strengthen cooperative sector. During the time of demonetisation, the state government directly intervened for the rescue of co-operative sector in general and cooperative financial institutions in particular. The government ensured state guarantee for the investments deposited in more than 1,400 cooperative bank branches. So depositors had faith in the cooperative banks.
For the first time in the history, a department for women and children is being set up in Kerala to ensure well-being and security of women. This will go a long way. Pink Patrol, run by women police, is considered as a service for women in cities. This is over and above the routine tracking system by the police. The patrolling vehicles have been equipped with GPS-enabled software. Nirbhaya 24X7 help desk, women helpline numbers, district women cells by women CIs, etc have also been made operational.
Dalit youth have been made priests in traditional temples. This is lauded by one and all as a step of historical significance that goes along with the temple entry proclamation. Though there was some isolated resistance from caste Hindus and the Sangh Parivar, the step was widely welcomed as a measure taken towards further social reforms.
Welfare fund meant for migrant labourers is launched for the first time in Kerala, under the present political dispensation. Shelters at important centres have also been set up. A medical assistance scheme covers their physical well-being.
Discussions are on to enhance the welfare measures meant for workers.
Budget allocation for public distribution has been hiked considerably -- Rs 150 crore was allocated over and above the fund earmarked for this. So with the intervention of the government, blackmarketeers and hoarders could be kept at a distance. As per the food security act, the distribution of food grains, essential commodities, etc were made transparent and just. Maveli store, Neethi store and civil supplies outlets have been strengthened and price rise was brought down in a considerable way.
Restoration of agriculture prosperity is another achievement of this government. Kerala has increased its arable land area with determined efforts, with the participation of people. Paddy cultivation area is raised by 34,000 acres. Uncultivated areas are being put to use. Indigenous brand of rice cultivated by Padashekhara Samithi (farmers forum) became popular these days. Vegetable cultivation rose from 6 lakh tonnes to 10 lakh tonnes. Milk production has also increased significantly.
Programmes to rejuvenate rivers are in implementation. People have wholeheartedly come to retrieve rivers like Varattar, Kolarayar, Kanappuzhayar, Pallikkalar, Poonoorar, Meenanthayar, Varalchal etc. Haritha Kerala Mission spearheaded such activities. Over 5,000 ponds were constructed and 1,500 ponds were renovated. As many as 2,792 hectares of land has been newly irrigated.
AARDRAM Mission was launched to provide curative and preventive health systems to the people.
Many mega infrastructure development projects are also going to take off. Water Metro will be launched next year. Work on the GAIL pipeline project is about to be completed. Kannur Airport will be operational in September this year.