Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for comparing Kerala to Somalia, saying he has insulted the state, and asked him to show some “political decency” by withdrawing his remark.
In a hard-hitting letter to Modi, Chandy said the prime minister’s comparison of Kerala to Somalia during a recent campaign rally, claiming the state had ‘adverse’ economic and social parameters, has “shocked” the people of the state as it has nothing to do with the ground realities. He also requested Modi to show some “political decency” by withdrawing the statement as they are “baseless and contrary to ground realities.”
Countering Modi’s remark that the state had lagged behind in various growth indicators including health and education, Chandy said Kerala was above national average in terms of economic growth and human resource development for the past five years.
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Chandy also said the state’s human resource has caught the attention of the world.
“Yet, you (PM) compared Kerala to Somalia that is reeling under poverty and internal strife. Is it not a shame for the prime minister to pronounce that a state like Somalia exists in the country?” Chandy said.
Referring to the statement, Chandy said, “This is unbecoming of a prime minister and has created a great deal of agony and protest.”
“With great deal of regret, let me point out that they (previous PMs) never attempted anything that brought disrepute to the office of the Prime Minister like you have done,” he said in the letter, a copy of which was released to the media.
On Modi’s jibe over the solar scam, in which allegations have been raised against him, Chandy said “no one in Kerala is going to be in panic on hearing the word ‘solar'”. He said people of Kerala know well that not even a single penny of the government was lost in the scam, which is a financial fraud whose victims are private parties.
“I wonder whether it befits a Prime Minister to feel disgraced during the time of election and proud on other occasions,” Chandy said, while pointing out to Modi’s praise on solar power initiatives in Kerala several times.
The BJP meanwhile backed the PM’s statement and alleged various welfare laws for the SC/ST communities were not being implemented in the state.
“For the benefit of SC/ST brothers, many laws made by the Central government are not being implemented in Kerala. Isn’t this an insult to the state,” BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan told reporters.
“The Chief Minister has raised the issue of the Malayalee pride being hurt now, only with an eye on the May 16 Assembly polls,” Rajasekharan said.
Media had highlighted reports of two tribal children rummaging for food at a waste dump in a tribal colony at Peravur in Kannur district and the incident had shaken the conscience of the nation, he said, adding, there was nothing wrong and ‘unnatural’ about what PM had said.
Referring to Chandy’s claim that for the welfare of the tribals, crores had been spent by the government and that no child in the state will eat from the waste dump, the BJP leader claimed that at Attapadi, 143 children have died due to malnourishment.
“Has the Chief Minister forgotten about them,” he asked. Chandy should explain the steps taken by the government to stop starvation deaths in the state, he said.
Excerpts from Chandy’s letter clarifying on the news about the tribal children:
It was reported by the media that Renjith and Rajith, children of Rajeevan and Sarada and also Abhinav, Sudeep and Akhil, children of Sasi and Santha; belonging to Paniya community and staying Thiruvonappuram Ambalakuzhi Colony in ward 12 of Peravur grama panchayat, were bunking classes to trespass a waste treatment plant for consuming stale food. An enquiry was immediately done on the matter by the Department of Scheduled Tribe Development and the local police.As per the report of the Director of Scheduled Tribe Development Department submitted to the government on 18‐11‐2015, these children studying in the 5th and 6th standards at Vekkalam U.P. School are facing complaints of skipping classes and trespassing farmlands and residential properties. They also trespass the waste treatment plant, despite stern warnings from the plant workers. Their parents are agricultural labourers and they get jobs on a steady basis, because of which the family did not experience difficulty in getting food or other necessities. The two families were given an acre of land each in the 10th block of the rehabilitation centre in the Aaralam Farm, but they have not yet moved to that place for permanent settlement. Currently these families are living in habitable homes.The Peravur Police in their report of 24‐11‐2015 says that the children were taken to the school, free‐of‐cost, on vehicle by the school manager Mr Shibu Kalamandir and were provided with free mid‐day meal and on two days a week milk and egg. They rarely go to school. Everyday, these children after having food would leave their homes at their convenience. They are in the habit of jumping the walls of the waste treatment plant and pick the scrap, which they sell to buy food of their liking from hotels. They also trespass farmlands to collect areca nut and coconut and used to sell them.The respective reports of the police and the Scheduled Tribe Development Department confirm the fact that the children never went to the waste treatment plant in search of food. In the police report, it has been said that these children gather scrap and sell them for buying food from hotels. The facts being so, what was your motive behind saying such a blatant lie tothe people of Kerala? I can assure you that no child in Kerala takes stale food.In Kerala, 25.02 lakh school‐ going students are being provided with free mid‐day meal and egg on one day and milk on another in a week. For five years, the government of Kerala has been giving rice at rupees one to 94 lakh people. Now, we are giving that free of cost, making us the second State in India to do so