Explained: What is the Kerala Smart Kitchen Project?

The revised Kerala government budget for the current fiscal year announced the introduction of a Smart Kitchen project, which aims to modernize kitchens and alleviate the difficulties faced by housewives in household chores.

The budget, presented by Finance Minister KN Balagopal, set aside an amount of Rs 5 crore for the initial phase of the program, which would be implemented by Kerala State Financial Enterprises (KSFE), a chit fund managed by the state and a loan company.

What is the Smart Kitchen project?

Under this program, KSFE would provide low-interest loans to women from all walks of life for the purchase of gadgets or household equipment. The cost of household equipment can be reimbursed in installments over a period of time. The interest on the loan / cost would be shared equally between the beneficiary, the local self-government body and the state government. To implement the program, KSFE would launch smart kitchen tokens.

What is the idea behind the project?

Previous LDF government budgets were notorious for gender responsive budgeting. This pattern appeared in the last budget of the first LDF government led by Pinarayi Vijayan. Spending for women-focused programs was Rs 760 crore in 2016-17, representing 4% of plan spending. In the budget for 2021-2022, this expenditure increased to Rs 1,347 crore, representing 6.54% of the share of the plan.

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One of the highlights of the last budget of the first Vijayan government was the emphasis on job creation, with women being the main beneficiaries. The government believes that for a better participation of women at work, the burden of household chores must be reduced.

By improving mechanization in kitchens, the participation of women at work could be increased. Thus, the Smart Kitchen project was proposed.

What are the modalities being developed?

After taking office for the second term, the current LDF government has assembled a high-level team to work out the modalities for implementing the smart kitchen scheme.

Members of Kudumbashree, which is Kerala’s Women Empowerment and Poverty Alleviation Program, are reportedly preferred to purchase kitchen gadgets under the Smart Cooking Program. No collateral would be required from Kudumbashree members, as per the original plan.

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