Thiruvananthapuram: The budget session of the Kerala Assembly commenced on Monday with the policy address of Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.
Kerala has achieved economic growth of 17 per cent despite the financial crisis, the Governor said during his address at the 8th session of the 15th Legislative Assembly.
The policy address also mentioned that Kerala was successful in creating an environment conducive to businesses.
The Governor also said the State Government would aim at reducing unemployment and helping the weaker sections of society. "The Life Mission project will continue to help the economically weaker sections," the Governor said.
The Governor acknowledged the success of the Kudumbashree Mission for the social support campaigns.
The speech also underlined the importance of constitutional values and unity in diversity.
In a slight rebuke to the Centre, the policy address highlighted the importance of cooperative federalism.
In his address, Khan said that the Constitution has provided legislative space for the Union and the States and therefore, incursions into the legislative domain of the States "do not augur well for a cooperative federal setup".
"Checks and balances in the system have to be scrupulously observed for the healthy functioning of our democratic polity. Legislative Assemblies represent the will of the people.
"The spirit of legislation and the intention of the legislature has to be protected," the Governor said.
He further said his government was committed to protecting constitutional values "which are presently facing many challenges."
"Hegemonic tendencies in religious, linguistic and other arenas hamper building of a robust democracy, which respects diversity for strengthening its unity," Khan said.
The Cabinet had approved the Governor’s draft policy address after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asked a ministerial-level meeting not to be too critical of the Governor and the Centre in the policy declaration speech.
Therefore, special efforts need to be made to defend democracy, secularism, plural values and federalism, the important foundations of our national unity and part of the basic structure of the Constitution, he said.
Khan, in the policy address, also said that a strong nation has to have a strong Centre, empowered States and actively functioning local governments.
He said that recent restrictions on borrowing capacities of the state are hampering their ability to intervene in the health, education and infrastructure sectors.
"For the body politic of the nation to be strong, it needs strong limbs. States have heavy responsibilities in the social sectors and their fiscal position has to be strong.
"Recent measures to curtail the borrowing limits of the States constrain the scope of their interventions in the health, education and infrastructural sectors," the Governor said.
Khan said while fiscal discipline has to be enforced in right earnest, "there cannot be different yardsticks for state governments, which are not made applicable to the Union Government".
Freedom of press
Freedom of the press was a "cardinal" feature of a strong democracy and free and fair media activities have to be protected, is another issue he spoke about in the policy address.
Khan said there have been instances of freedom of press being curtailed in different ways in some parts of the country and his government was always committed to protect the independence of the media.
He also emphasised that there was a remote perception that agencies empowered to investigate matters regarding compliance to laws are acting in a manner which deviates from the professionalism expected from them.
The Cabinet reportedly decided not to include any politically critical references in the speech.
While the speech mentioned the proposed changes to be brought in by the Government in the higher education sector but was silent on the interventions made by the Governor in his capacity as Chancellor of state universities.
While the speech went on the expected lines, the Opposition raised slogans during the policy address.
Budget presentation on Feb 3
The 33-day long budget session of the Kerala Assembly commenced with the Governor's policy address and is scheduled to conclude on March 30.
The debate on the motion of thanks for the Governor's speech is scheduled on January 25, February 1 and 2.
Finance Minister K N Balagopal will present the LDF government's budget for the next financial year on February 3.
The legislature will debate the budget for three days from February 6 to 8.
There will be no session on Tuesday. Even though the House has to function on Wednesday according to the present agenda, the Business Advisory Committee that will convene tomorrow will decide to cancel the session for that day.
The Assembly, which will continue functioning till February 10, will resume the session on February 27 and it will be prorogued after passing the budget before March 30. Thus it will be the longest session of the House calendar. The business of the House will be dedicated to issues on the budget.
If the passing of any legislation is needed, the Business Advisory Committee will meet and include it in the agenda.
As the budget is being presented a year ahead of the Lok Sabha election the Finance Minister may seek to raise the maximum revenue. The hike in water tariff just ahead of the budget is a pointer in this direction.
(With PTI inputs.)