Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government has sought a special COVID-19 package from Centre as 10 lakh expats have returned to the southern state due to job loss.

Around 14 lakh expatriates have returned back to Kerala, of which about 10 lakh has cited job loss due to COVID-19, Kerala’s Finance Minister KN Balagopal said on Thursday. 

Replying to a query in Kerala Assembly, the Finance Minister said that Kerala would request for a special COVID package from the Centre considering the issues faced by the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) population who were forced to return home.

“The peculiar situation Kerala is undergoing will be taken up with the Centre as a large number of the NRI population was forced to return home due to COVID. Also, the plantation sector in the state is under severe financial distress. During the meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had taken up the issues. All MPs from Kerala should jointly take up the matter,” he said.

Due to various challenges including the COVID induced lockdown, Balagopal said the state is reeling under a serious financial crisis in the ongoing financial year too.

“The COVID pandemic has severely affected tax and non-tax revenue collection. But as a duty of the government, we are carrying out various welfare schemes for people hit hard by the pandemic. Short term and long-term plans have been devised and a stimulus package of Rs 20,000 crore was already declared in the budget,” he said.

Meanwhile, Congress MLA PC Vishnunath alleged that the stimulus package of about Rs 10,000 crores was used to pay the pending bills of contractors and used to meet committed expenditure. 

For a query from him, whether a COVID specific package would be implemented, the Minister said that even money given to contractors would be coming in the market.

“The government through the package has declared subsidised loans to various sectors. Through interest subvention scheme, the government has helped industries, traders and MSMEs. This will continue,” he added. 

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