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Thiruvananthapuram, July 21

THE State Government is planning to move the Supreme Court against the order of the Kerala High Court directing the Perumatty panchayat to renew the licence of Coca-Cola bottling plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district.

The Local Administration Minister, Mr Kutty Ahmed Kutty, said in the State Assembly on Thursday that the order of the High Court was against Section 232 of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act. Besides, the company had not complied with the guidelines of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee and the State Pollution Control Board.

The Minister said that the Government would clamp down on over-exploitation of water by cola companies in view of the sharp depletion of groundwater resources in those areas. The State Ground Water Department had also advised the State Government against allowing the cola companies to exploit the ground water resources.

The Food and Civil Supplies Minister, Mr Adoor Prakash, told the House that the State Government would communicate to the Centre its opposition to the proposal to replace ration cards with food coupons.

Though there had been reports regarding the proposal, the Centre had not formally informed the State Government anything about it, he added.

The Finance Minister, Mr Vakkom Purushothaman, said that the Government would slash the tax on unlicensed contractors, who undertake jobs for beneficiary committees of local self-government institutions and work under SGRY, from the existing 12.5 per cent value-added tax (VAT) to 4 per cent and fix the ceiling for such concessional rate at Rs 10 lakh.

The Minister also said that there was no proposal to exempt products sold through military canteens from VAT. The empowered committee had taken the decision to impose VAT on these products after much deliberation and taking note of the misuse of the facility.

The Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy, informed the House that he would request the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to overhaul the National Family Benefit Scheme so as to ensure that thousands of families eligible for benefits under the scheme were not denied the same.

Initially, the Centre sanctioned money with reference to the number of beneficiaries under the scheme. However, the scheme format was changed recently with the Centre starting to sanction specific amounts for each State without considering the number of beneficiaries.

The Forest and Water Resources Minister, Mr Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, said that the State Government had requested the Centre to include the Kallada Irrigation Project under the Command Area Development Authority and sought Rs 149 crore as long-term assistance. The Government had also submitted to the Centre a Rs 85.43-crore Dam Repair and Disaster Management Programme for financial support.

The Minister said that the Government had asked the Survey Department to carry out a survey of the forests on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border to identify the exact border between the two States.

He noted that in many parts of the border, the real dividing lines were quite vague. This was causing problems in forest administration and prevention of encroachments from the other side of the border in some places.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 22, 2005)
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