Congress workers in Kannur protesting against Kerala Budget | Photo: Mathrubhumi
Thiruvananthapuram: Protests by the Opposition parties broke out in the capital of Kerala and other parts of the southern State over the budgetary proposal of the Left government to impose cess on petrol, diesel and liquor.
Slamming the budget for the fiscal 2023-24 presented by State Finance Minister K N Balagopal in the Assembly, the Congress-led UDF alleged that the proposals in the document amounted to looting the people.
The Opposition Congress which took out a march to protest at various district headquarters announced that it would observe 'Black Day' on February 4 against the alleged anti-people policies of the State government. In Kottayam, BJP workers, led by party chief K Surendran, burned an effigy of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
As the UDF and the BJP came down heavily on the State government over the proposals, Vijayan justified by claiming that "They (proposals) will help Kerala overcome the financial hurdles created by the Central government."
Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan told reporters that the Left government was covering up the critical financial situation of the State and has increased the tax burden on the people.
"The budget is hiding the critical financial situation faced by the State government and the proposals amount to looting the people. The decision to impose cess on liquor will lead to more people shifting towards drugs. The budget was presented without doing adequate studies," Satheesan alleged.
He said when the State was facing inflation, the rise in petrol and diesel prices would hit the market hard.
"The imposition of cess on petrol and diesel comes at a time when we are fighting against soaring fuel prices. This will lead to price rise of essential commodities affecting the common man," Satheesan said.
Meanwhile, Vijayan said Kerala has achieved a double-digit growth rate, the highest since 2012 and the budget would improve the pace of development of the State.
"Quality job opportunities, along with development in the science and technological sector and the higher education sector, stress on environmental protection and infrastructural development are the salient features of this budget," Vijayan said in a statement.
The Chief Minister further said the budget aims to strengthen local self-government bodies. He said the decision to set aside Rs 2,000 crore to deal with the price hike and Rs 600 crore as subsidy for rubber farmers who were ignored by the Central government would ease the woes of the people.
However, State Congress chief K Sudhakaran said the party would raise its voice of protest as, he felt, the budget would make the lives of the people difficult. He said an additional tax of Rs 4,000 crore was imposed when tax worth thousands of crores of rupees was not collected.
CPI(M) State secretary M V Govindan said the budget was based on the alternative policy put forward by the Left government. He said the budget has given due importance to agriculture, rubber-farming, coconut procurement, steps to reduce man-animal conflict and traditional industries among others.
The BJP alleged that the Left government has imposed a new tax on the people to find money for the Left leaders to squander it.
Union Minister V Muraleedharan said social security cess is a farce.
"The money being collected is to fund the foreign trips of the Chief Minister and the Ministers. The Left which protested against the Centre should apologise," Muraleedharan said in a statement.
The BJP workers in Kochi protested against the rise in fuel price cess. Various DCCs also staged protests here and in other districts.