Kerala Chief Minister and CPI(M) politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said it was not his job to see from which account his travel bills are settled.
Pinarayi had hired a helicopter for his to and fro journey to attend a party district conference in Thrissur on December 26. Vijayan had rushed from the party meeting to the state capital to meet the central team which was in Kerala to take stock of the disaster in the wake of Cyclone Ochki. The revenue department had issued an order to release Rs 8 lakh from the state disaster relief fund towards the cost of the chopper trip, but it was revoked on Tuesday after the diversion of the relief fund snowballed into an embarrassing controversy for the Government.
Addressing the party district conference in Idukki, Pinarayi said on Wednesday: “Such trips would be necessary tomorrow also. There was nothing wrong in using the helicopter in this case. We use a vehicle for travelling for a purpose. I don’t pay from my pocket or my family’s account. Normally, the government is paying the cost of my travelling. In urgent situations, when other means of travelling are not available, sometimes special aircraft would be required. In such occasions, I need not know how the bills are being settled. It is the job of the officials to look into such issues. My work is not to examine it.’’
Pinarayi said meeting the central team that went to Kerala to assess the Ochki situation was important. Had he not met the central team, it would have triggered another controversy, the CM said.
Indicating that such trips would be necessary for any chief minister or minister, Pinarayi said the former CM had used Rs 25 lakh from the disaster fund to meet his chopper bills to a visit to Idukki district. “It was only on Tuesday evening that I came to know the bill was paid using the disaster relief fund. The order was cancelled on the ground that such bills can be met using the fund from the public account,’’ he said.
As the issue became a controversy, the CPI(M) indicated the party may pay the chopper bill of the Chief Minister to avoid further legal issues.
CPI (M) minister Kadakampally Surendran said the government has taken corrective step the moment the issue came to its notice. “The CPI(M) has the capacity to pay that chopper bill. The party would examine the issue and take appropriate decision,’’ he said.
Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan, who is in charge of the disaster management authority, said he was not aware of the decision to take away the amount from the disaster relief fund to meet the chopper bill. He sought an explanation from the revenue secretary P H Kurien, who had issued the order.
The revenue secretary had issued the order to release Rs 8 lakh from the disaster relief fund as per a request mooted by state police chief Loknath Behera, through chief secretary K M Abraham, who retired last week. But Behera tried to evade the issue, saying: “We are providing security only. I don’t want to comment on other things.”
Congress state president M M Hassan said a corruption case should be registered against the chief minister on charges of misusing the disaster relief fund.