Kerala Assembly session begins with Governor Arif Khan’s speech; Opposition boycotts session
The 22nd assembly of the 14th legislative assembly started with Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s speech. The latter had received more hearty welcome today at the Assembly, as compared to the protests in the previous years. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan escorted Arif Khan to the dais. However, the opposition welcomed the Governor with anti-government slogans, demanding the resignation of the “corrupt and smuggling racket government”.
The protests continued even as the Governor began his policy announcement speech. The protestors gathered around with placards and slogans, while Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala interfered while Arif Khan started his speech. The Governor pleaded with them, saying that he was trying to do his Constitutional responsibility and any obstruction to that is a violation of the Indian Constitution. Despite the pleas, the Opposition continued its protests, and Ramesh Chennithala could be seen trying to interfere, however, his mic had been turned off.
Ten minutes into Arif Khan’s speech, the opposition boycotted the policy announcement and walked out of the assembly. The Opposition Leader claimed that protesting for the opposition is their duty and they are going to continue with that.
The Governor, in his speech, says that the state had to face many crises including two floods, and the latest Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, the return of over six lakh expatriates had also put the state government in a tough spot. “However, Kerala was the first state to propose Rs 20,000 crore relief packages and provided welfare pension to everyone. We also started programmes to create jobs in the current economy and as a result, were able to produce 11,604 employment opportunities. While we have one of the lowest Covid mortality rate, we must deal with the rising cases and high Test Positivity Rate,” the speech says.
The Governor has not yet made any changes to the draft speech that was given to him, and so the speech raises points against the BJP-led Centre, the central agencies, and the three contentious farm laws. Starting with a very common issue that the Kerala government has raised multiple times in the last year, Arif Khan read that we are at a moment when federalism is facing challenges from multiple sides. “Kerala is one of the states that have repeatedly requested the Centre to protect the essence of federalism. Including increasing the debt limit of the state, Kerala has on many occasions has raised concerns to protect its interest,” he said.
The issue of federalism has been recently raised in the case of the three central farm bills, which invalidate the right of the states. While many thought that the Governor might skip the portion, it was surprising that he continued. “The new farm bills erase Minimum Support Price and help corporate middleman rather than the farmer. This will heavily affect consumerist states such as Kerala, and we will strongly ask the Centre to establish proper MSP for our crops including rubber,” he said.
Poking at the latest controversy, reading the speech, the Governor said, “The central agencies are trying to block the state government’s important developmental projects. Their interruption will affect the further movements of many of these projects.” However, he added that the K FON (Kerala Fibre Optic Network) project would go as planned and will become a reality. “The underprivileged will benefit from this project as it makes the internet accessible to everyone,” he added.