The 14.5 per cent fat tax on junk food grabbed the headlines when Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac presented his annual budget last week, the first after the Left Front won office. With the state’s finances in doldrums and the fear of reverse migration from the Gulf looming large, Isaac, desperate to expand the state’s revenue base, picked on burgers, pizzas and sandwiches, which remain the preferred food of a consumer elite in Kerala, for a new tax, sugarcoated as an initiative to keep people healthy.
A no less smart initiative, and one with political ramifications, in Isaac’s budget is the proposal to build cultural complexes in all districts in the name of renaissance personalities from the state. The complexes, each estimated to be built at a cost of Rs 40 crore, will include a performance space, theatre, concert hall, seminar hall, bookstore, workspace for craftspersons and facilities for short-term stay. Funds have been earmarked for a slew of museums in the name of musicians and artists and cultural initiatives.
Isaac’s step is an acknowledgment of modern Kerala’s debt to these men and women in transforming a society riven by caste and class into a modern community that aspires to the highest ideals of democracy. Most of these renaissance figures — Ayyankali, Sree Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swami, Akkamma Cheriyan, Sahodaran Ayyappan, V.T. Bhattathirippad, Mohammed Abdur Rahiman Saheb among others — were flagbearers of the social revolutions the state experienced beginning with the late 19th century. The Left in Kerala grew out of the mobilisations for social, political and economic empowerment; this historic link is the primary reason why the Kerala communists could withstand the political upheavals that vanquished them elsewhere in India. With the Hindutva right laying claim to some of these figures, it had become imperative, perhaps, for the Left to reassert its organic links with the socio-religious reform movements of the past. Isaac’s budget is a move in that direction.
Read this opinion at : Icons of the state
Source: Indian Express – Editorials