2 'populist' Kerala schemes pass poll panel, HC muster

In a major boost to the welfare credentials of the Kerala government, two of its apparently populist schemes announced recently have passed muster with the Election Commission and the high court.

In the first instance, the Election Commission has lifted its ban on the launch of a free ration scheme announced in the 2016-17 state budget. This is, however, subject to the condition that no new beneficiary shall be brought under its ambit.

The budget proposal was to provide free ration to all below the poverty line and Antyodaya Anna Yojana families through ration shops.

Chief minister Oommen Chandy, who presented the budget, had estimated that the state's subsidy bill would go up by Rs500 crore on account of this.

The go-ahead for the free ration scheme came within a few hours of the state cabinet deciding to move the court for securing clearance for it.

In the second instance, the High Court of Kerala directed the Election Commission to permit the government to disburse Rs44.54 crore to 44,327 potential beneficiaries from the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.

The court had considered the distress relief scheme in response to a writ petition by four beneficiaries of the scheme.

The government had submitted that the Chief Minister had directly received the applications seeking the assistance on 3 March last year.

It requested that all applications received till the forenoon of 4 March this year may be cleared since the election schedule was announced only in the afternoon.

Necessary funds had been released before the announcement. All relevant information had also been passed on to the Election Commission.