The CPI-M led LDF government in Kerala today announced a slew of initiatives including the abolition of plantation tax, moratorium on agriculture income tax and legislation to take over closed estates to revive the crisis-driven plantation sector.
Making the announcement in the assembly, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the labour department would take steps to formulate a plantation policy with a view to resolve problems faced by the sector.
The package for the revival, approved by the cabinet yesterday, was based on the report of by Justice (retd) Krishnan Nair Commission appointed by to look into the issues in the sector in 2015. A committee led by the Chief Secretary was constituted in 2017 to make recommendations on the Commission report. Noting that the plantation tax was an age-old levy that existed only in Kerala, Vijayan said accepting the suggestion of the Committee, it has been decided to abolish the same.
It has been decided to freeze the collection of agriculture income tax from the plantation sector, he said. Necessary legislation would be brought in either to take over the closed or defunct plantations or run through societies of workers, he added. Vijayan further said steps would be taken to bring the plantation workers under Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESI).
The labour department would take necessary steps for timely revision of wages of workers, he added. Rubber, coffee, tea and cardamom are the main plantation crops cultivated in a total of area of 7.04 lakh hectares, an official release said. Earlier during the zero hour, members of the Congress-led UDF Opposition staged a walkout to protest the alleged stalemate in the development works in local bodies due to ‘wrong’ financial policy of the state government.
Replying to the notice for an adjournment motion sought to be moved by the UDF, State Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac rejected the charges and said necessary amounts from the Development Fund and Assets Maintenance Fund for the month July has already been released. “There was no stagnation in the development work in civic bodies,” he said.
Disputing the government claim, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said development activities in the rural areas have come to a standstill and blamed the ‘financial mismanagement’ of the government for the present situation.