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Kerala Budget 'Leak': Opposition Demands Finance Minister's Resignation

Opposition parties in Kerala disrupted Finance Minister Thomas Issac's budget speech in the house on Friday with allegations that the document had been leaked online and was circulating on social media.

Tushar Dhara | News18.com

Updated:March 3, 2017, 1:41 PM IST
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Kerala Budget 'Leak': Opposition Demands Finance Minister's Resignation
File Photo of Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac (L) and image of state Assembly building (R).
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Opposition parties in Kerala disrupted Finance Minister Thomas Issac's budget speech in the house on Friday with allegations that the document had been leaked online and was circulating on social media.

Halfway through Issac's budget speech the Congress raised allegations that the 2017-18 budget papers had been leaked. The opposition staged a walkout, calling it an 'unprecedented' situation.

The government has taken a grave view and reportedly ordered a probe into the matter.

Issac has said that the government will "look into the leak, but it is not a serious issue as it may have happened after an hour of me starting the speech."

The leak of budget documents before they are presented in the house is considered a breach of government protocol. It is as yet unclear what parts of the budget were leaked or who did it.

Budget Highlights

Thomas Issac announced a free medicine scheme for lifestyle diseases and free internet connectivity, but rerained from announcing new taxes in view of the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.

"I am setting aside Rs 10 crore for revamping facilities at the Kerala State Drugs and Pharmaceuticals which will be producing these medicines," said Issac.

The free medicine scheme is for people suffering from lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol. Issac said the medicines would be supplied through the state-run hospitals.

Studies have shown that that 22% of the population above the age of 25 has been diagnosed with diabetes and Kerala is fast becoming the diabetes capital of the country. Likewise, hypertension is also on the rise. High cholesterol afflicts almost 50% of the adult population in the state.

Thomas Issac announced the imposition of a 14.5% tax on the consumption of junk food in last years' budget. Dubbed the 'fat tax', it was imposed on food high in fat and calories like burgers, pizzas and fries, though it excluded sugary drinks and Indian junk food. The so-called fat tax was an effort to discourage the consumption of food high in 'empty calories', though critics questioned the selective imposition of the tax.

Issac also said that the internet would be made the right of the people and two million poor families will get free access to the net. "Internet will now become a right for the people and within 18 months the internet gateway would be set up through the K phone network at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore," Issac said while presenting the budget.

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| Edited by: Sujit Nath
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