Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, speaking at the inauguration of the Loan Fair organised by Indian Overseas Bank and Canara Bank in Attingal, emphasised the importance of the state government providing proper accounts for the funds allocated. Sitharaman’s statements not only countered the CPM’s allegations of fund withholding but also advocated for transparency and accountability in Kerala’s agricultural practises. The Finance Minister’s address at the Loan Fair emphasised the government’s commitment to supporting farmers and ensuring they receive their due payments in a timely manner.
The Finance Minister underscored the need for farmers to receive the appropriate price for the paddy procured by the state government. Sitharaman clarified that the absolute responsibility for paying the paddy’s price rests with the state government, and she urged them to fulfill this commitment to the farmers.
During the event, Sitharaman highlighted the efficiency of the Centre’s Kisan Samman Scheme, where funds are seamlessly transferred to farmers’ accounts with a single click. She questioned why Kerala couldn’t adopt a similar system for the benefit of its farmers.
In reference to recent events, Sitharaman brought up the unfortunate suicide of K.G. Prasad, a 55-year-old farmer in Kuttanad. The Finance Minister’s remarks aimed to draw attention to the importance of prompt and fair disbursement of payments to farmers, urging the state to streamline its processes.
Addressing specific allocations, Sitharaman stated that the Centre has disbursed the entire share for programmes such as the National Social Assistance Programme, UGC Salary Revisions, Capital Investment Assistance for Infrastructure Development, Health Grants, National Food Safety, and GST Compensation to states.
Regarding GST Compensation, Sitharaman expressed concern over the delay caused by the state’s accounts for 2021–2022 still being in the process with the Accountant General (AG). Sitharaman questioned the reason behind the delay and stressed the importance of timely endorsement by the state AG.
The Finance Minister’s statements aimed to debunk claims of fund delays and underscore the Centre’s commitment to disbursing grants promptly to states, including Kerala. Sitharaman urged the state to expedite the necessary procedures, ensuring that deserving beneficiaries receive their entitlements without unnecessary delays.
Sitharaman highlighted the UGC Salary Reforms, stating that Kerala was given time until March 31, 2022, to provide corrected proposals, but the submission did not occur. The Finance Minister questioned the possibility of disbursing funds if the application is not accurate. Referring to infrastructure development grants, Sitharaman noted that funds had been granted until 2022 for 50 years without interest, provided states complied with the condition of not changing the names of central schemes.
The Finance Minister revealed that the Centre had twice requested Kerala to submit clear-cut schemes for central funds, but no response has been received so far. Sitharaman expressed concern over Kerala’s practice of changing the names of central schemes after accepting funds, emphasizing the need for adherence to guidelines set by the Central Finance Commission.
Sitharaman alleged that Kerala demands funds without adhering to the guidelines of the 15th Finance Commission, emphasising the importance of submitting clear accounts before the State Accountant General. She urged media persons to convey the facts to the public and provided details of the funds allocated by the Centre for the state.
In the context of Kerala’s claims of insufficient funds from the Centre, Sitharaman highlighted the increased grants during Prime Minister Modi’s regime, emphasising that Kerala received Rs 22,171 crore in 2021–2022 compared to Rs 602 crore in 2009–2010.
Sitharaman inaugurated the ‘Aaykar Bhavan’ in Kochi before boarding the Vande Bharat Express to travel to Thiruvananthapuram. The Finance Minister’s statements shed light on the need for transparency, compliance, and accurate submissions to ensure the efficient allocation of funds for states, including Kerala.