Politics mars Kerala relief, rescue

Thiruvananthapuram: As the focus shifts to relief and rescue operations after one of the worst disasters in memory, Kerala is witnessing an ugly phase of politicking over coping up with the tragedy.

Controversy has surrounded a statement by minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan over central aid and a telephone conversation between CM Pinarayi Vijayan and Union minister of state for home Nityanand Rai over the flood situation.

V Muraleedharan reportedly quoted the CM as telling the Union minister of state for home the state government was happy with the central aid being distributed to the state in the aftermath of the devastating flood and landslides.

“I was told by the Union MoS for Home when he asked the Kerala CM if he was happy with the Centre’s response, Pinarayi Vijayan remarked, this is enough,” Muraleedharan was quoted as saying.

But the CM has sought to ridicule Muraleedharan, claiming there was very little conversation between him and Nityanand Rai as he could not follow what the Union minister was saying in Hindi and he had handed over the phone to his private secretary to carry on the conversation.

“Nityananda Rai, MoS had called. I couldn’t follow his Hindi. So, we arranged for my secretary to speak to his secretary. We haven’t said central aid is enough,” Vijayan clarified to newsmen.

Controversy is also raging over the Gadgil Committee report, which had recommended strict adherence to environmental regulations in the Western Ghat region, but were ignored by successive governments.

The committee had advocated a total ban on commercial activities in the ecologically fragile areas and had warned of serious consequences if this was not done.

The UDF government headed by former CM Oommen Chandi, however, rejected the recommendations and appointed a series of committees to review the Gadgil report until one came up with ‘mild’ recommendations which were acceptable to the pressure groups and the political parties. The pressure groups included the power Church lobby and no political party wanted to risk antagonising them.

By K RAVEENDRAN

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