Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday reiterated the demand of the state government to increase the borrowing limit from the current 3 per cent to 5 per cent, amid the coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown.
“Because of the lockdown, there has been a drastic fall in the revenue collection and to overcome the financial constraints, we need a hike in the borrowing limit. The Central government has recently increased its borrowing limit to 5.5 per cent but the state’s limit is still at 3 per cent. Despite repeated requests, the Centre has not bothered to increase the borrowing limit. It is not in line with the basic principles of a Federal system," he said.
The Chief Minister also said there is nothing new in the announcement of the Union Finance Minister’s allocation of more money to the states for the welfare of workers working in other states. The amount allocated to the Disaster Relief Fund is just a share of the Centre. The 15th Finance Commission had allocated a central share of Rs 314 crores to Kerala but the state has only half of it, Rs 157 crores.
“We have asked the Prime Minister to allow special grants to the states in the context of COVID-19 situation and make this an additional consideration for inclusion in the Second Report of the 15th Finance Commission. It is inappropriate to portray the central contribution to the Disaster Relief Fund as help for COVID-19 prevention," he added.
From the Disaster Relief Fund, the state government has already given Rs 17 crores to district collectors for relief work and Rs 15 crores to the Health Department for buying medical equipment. As per the norms, only 25 per cent of the state's outlay can be spent on relief work and 10 per cent on purchasing equipment. Only this much can be used from SDRF amount. The state is using budgetary amounts to distribute welfare pensions.
Special trains to bring back stranded Keralites from eight states: The CM also announced that the Railways have agreed to arrange trains from eight states to Kerala to bring back the stranded people. Railways have also announced that the Bengaluru-Thiruvananthapuram Island Express is scheduled to operate daily. It is trying to make it a non-AC train.
Meanwhile, five states have granted approval for the return of the migrant labourers from Kerala. 28 trains will be sent to West Bengal from May 18 to June 14. “There is growing concern among the students in Delhi that there is no special train to Kerala from there. It is not practical for these students to book online for the special AC trains through IRCTC and moreover, they cannot afford the AC train fare. In this scenario, we are trying to arrange the transport of the students by non-AC trains. The helpdesk in Delhi is coordinating the efforts. We will be able to announce the details of these special trains in a day or two”, he added.
Kerala cases: 16 new cases were confirmed on Friday. Five persons from Wayanad district, four in Malappuram district, two each from Alappuzha and Kozhikode districts, and one each in Kollam, Palakkad and Kasargod districts are those who have tested positive. Seven of them have come back from overseas - four from UAE, two from Kuwait and one from Saudi Arabia. Six have returned from other states - four from Tamil Nadu and two from Maharashtra. Three cases have got infected through primary contact.
Meanwhile, no patient under treatment has recovered today. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the state is 576 and 80 patients are currently under treatment in different hospitals with Wayanad district having a maximum of 19 patients.