AS 29 Indians, including 16 from Kerala, who were stranded in war-torn Libya reached Kochi on Thursday, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy engaged in another war of words with the Centre.
A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing an election rally in the state, sought to take credit for the evacuation, Chandy today claimed that his government bore the cost of bringing them back. “Sushma Swaraj paid for the (flight) tickets during the earlier evacuations. But this time, the state government is paying for their travel,’’ said Chandy.
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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reacted in a series of sharply-worded tweets addressed to “Mr Chandy”. “We evacuated thousands of Indians from Kerala from Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Who paid for them,” she tweeted.
“You said ‘Kerala paid for 29 Indians evacuated from Libya’… Mr Chandy, you started this debate as to who paid. Not me. We always did this because this is our pious duty towards our citizens,” tweeted Swaraj.
Meanwhile, Josy Kurian, who returned with his wife and 18-month-old son, said neither the state nor the central governments had paid for their flight from Tripoli to Kochi, via Istanbul and Dubai. He claimed that he paid Rs 2.50 lakh for three flight tickets. “We did not get any help from the Indian mission at Tripoli,’’ he said. A resident of Alappuzha, Kurian said 13 of those who returned today were nurses and their families.
Meanwhile, Non-Resident Keralite Affairs CEO R S Kannan said the state government would reimburse the cost of the tickets.