Govt will 'definitely' pay welfare pension before Christmas: Finance Minister Balagopal

Finance Minister K N Balagopal. Photo: Manorama News

Thiruvananthapuram: Finance Minister K N Balagopal has asserted that the state government would resume the distribution of the welfare pension that has been stalled for nearly four months. Addressing the media here on Thursday, the minister said that all beneficiaries would get the pension 'definitely before Christmas'.
“Earlier, welfare pension distribution was halted for 18 months in Kerala. The government has initiated action to distribute the next instalment of the welfare pension,” said the minister. 

He added that the government will go ahead with its welfare measures despite not having received around Rs 30,000 crore from the Centre which it is entitled to.

Around 60 lakh people have been receiving Rs 1,600 each as monthly social security and welfare pensions in the state. Due to the severe funds crunch, the pension distribution came to a halt in May. In August, the government paid the pension for May and June ahead of Onam. But neither the government nor the finance department issued any statement on the distribution of the next instalment.

Hence, if the government resumes the pension disbursal this month, it will have to pay Rs 6,400 to each beneficiary towards the payments for four months since Onam. A large number of people including the elderly, the differently abled and widows have been depending on these pensions for their essential needs.

Govt not legally bound to support public sector firms
Talking about the financial liabilities of departments and public sector corporations including KSRTC and KTDFC, Balagopal said the departments and corporations concerned must act responsibly to settle the liabilities when the government gives guarantees to their loans. The minister said that some state entities might be facing losses, but that does not mean the guarantee given by the government has to be invoked right away. The departments concerned can address the issue at their level by restructuring their assets, Balagopal said. 

He was responding to reporters' queries regarding the government's affidavit submitted to the Kerala High Court which said that the state is presently facing financial constraints, and any monetary benefit has to be allowed within the financial resources available to it.

The affidavit was submitted in response to a petition filed by a depositor of who had moved the court to get his investment back from Kerala Transport Development Finance Corporation (KTDFC). The government told the court that the KTDFC and the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) can mortgage their property or sell one or two assets to outside parties or government agencies to solve their financial issues. 

"Even though the government supports state PSUs, including KSRTC, in various ways, it is obvious that the government is not legally bound to give financial support to meet its day-to-day requirements," it said in the affidavit. 

Balagopal also dismissed the opposition UDF's allegation that the Keraleeyam 2023 celebrations were an extravagant expenditure amid the financial crisis in the state. The minister said that Keraleeyam, which commenced on November 1, showcased the state's progress, achievements and cultural heritage to the world.
(With PTI inputs)

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