The Kerala government on Thursday earmarked Rs 739 crore for the development of Sabarimala temple, which has seen several violent protests since September 2018, when the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the hill shrine.

Kerala Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac presented the Budget for 2019-’20 financial year. Of the Rs 739 crore, Rs 100 crore has been allotted to the Travancore Dewaswom Board, which manages the Sabarimala temple. The temple board faced an unprecedented dip in revenue following the floods in the state and protests against the Supreme Court order.

Isaac said “vicious propaganda” was unleashed by some politicians that the government was “siphoning off the money” from the temple. “Unlike the vicious propaganda unleashed by some, the government does not appropriate even a single paisa from the income of the Sabarimala Temple,” he said in the Assembly.

More than Rs 147 crore has been allotted for the basic infrastructure development in the base camps at Nilakkal and Pamba, while Rs 40 crore has been earmarked for a Sewage Treatment Plant at Pamba. Another Rs 200 crore has been allotted to improve the roads leading towards the temple.

The government also allotted Rs 36 crore for Kochi and Malabar Devaswom Boards.

Flood cess

The government also said a “flood cess” will be levied to mobilise additional resources to rebuild the state, PTI reported. Isaac said Rs 1,000 crore has been earmarked for the “Rebuild Kerala” initiative. “For supply of goods coming within the GST, the tax bracket of 12%, 18% and 28% and on all services, one per cent flood cess will be imposed on the value of supply,” Isaac said, according to PTI. “This will be levied for a period of two years.”

The Budget also proposed to increase the tax rate levied on first sale of all kinds of foreign liquor, which, Isaac said, is expected to result in an additional revenue of Rs 180 crore.

“As per the recommendation of the GST Council, the GST rate of cinema tickets was brought down to 18% from 28%. As such, the local bodies will be permitted to levy 10% entertainment tax on cinema tickets,” Issac added.

He also announced 25 new projects to rebuild Kerala after the devastation caused by the flood in August last year, in which more than 400 people were killed.

Other announcements

Issac said the total Budget outlay has been pegged at Rs 1.42 lakh crore.

The Kerala government proposed that the expenses to transport bodies of deceased expatriates from the Gulf to the state would be borne by the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs. Isaac said all welfare pensions have been hiked by Rs 100.

A comprehensive health insurance scheme providing health security to all families was proposed in the Budget. Kerala has not yet signed up for the Centre’s flagship project, Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana.

The state government has proposed to provide 25% tax concession for five vehicles to newly registered e-rickshaws, in order to address increasing pollution.