Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan talks to The Indian Express on plans to get the state back on track and why he doesn’t want to take part in any controversy now.
While talking about rehabilitation, you said it’s not rebuilding, it’s building a new Kerala. What do you mean by it?
The rescue is complete and now it’s time for relief and rehabilitation. We intend to have the rehabilitation not as a work to place the former structures there. That’s why I said, instead of rebuilding we should focus on building a new Kerala. We will have comprehensive planning, we will bring expertise from every nook and corner and a concrete plan would be executed. As I have stated, Kerala has demonstrated its resilience and its now time to deliver another model to the world.
Would the focus be on avoiding environmental hazards?
Concern from all relevant sectors will be taken into consideration. Even otherwise, the Left has been consistent in its policy of development with an environmental concern. We have been always underlining the need to have a balanced growth.
The process of rebuilding would take away the focus from the development activities you have been carrying out. How are you going to deal with it?
The present development process that is underway need not be termed as diametrically opposite to what is going to come. As you know, Kerala has been lagging behind in the crucial sector of infrastructure. One among them is the absence of proper roads. That’s why our government has been giving so much of importance to the expansion of the National Highway. Such projects are required for the overall growth of the state. Such activities need not be pitched against the proposed plan of action.
The initial euphoria that we have seen in the response to the calamity usually gives way to more complexities and controversies as well as red tapism. How is your government planning to handle it?
I have always been saying that the need of the hour is unity. This is not the time for picking up quarrels and controversies. The government, central agencies and various organisations down to a layman have held their hands together to tide over this crisis. Every sensible being knows about the extent of the commitment and dedication that was put into this co-operation. Hence, I do not intend to respond to motivated statements.
There has been an overwhelming people’s participation in the rescue and relief work so far. But some criticism has already started coming in that there is an attempt to make the relief work a ruling party affair. You have already advised against it. But how are you planning to avoid it?
There could be minor issues and problems which are bound to happen. But the system is robust and competent enough to resolve such issues expeditiously. However, I have not come across any major irritants so far in the relief and rescue operations.
What’s the biggest lesson Kerala and your government have learnt from this disaster?
Every incident should be a lesson for anyone and everyone, including a government. As all of you know, it has been an unprecedented calamity that happened in a century. Kerala had never faced a calamity of this proportion. That’s why people were initially refusing to believe that this will attain this proportion. Of course, now we have to be more cautious, we have to take steps to prevent such occurrences. Calamities would haunt us in future too. But how we are avoiding casualties is going to be one of our cardinal objectives.
There seems to be a confusion about the financial aid offered by the UAE government. Has the central government cleared it? (This interview was conducted before the MEA made the government’s stand clear)
As I understand, UAE on its own has proposed this aid. UAE cannot be considered as any other nation, as their rulers have underlined. Indians, especially Keralites have contributed immensely in their nation building. Having said this, I do not intend to enter into any politics over it. Let’s study and understand the nuances.
Would you take up the matter with the Prime Minister?
What’s the message you have for people in Kerala in the second stage of the relief work — rehabilitation?
People of Kerala have shown exemplary unity, commitment, dedication and solidarity in undertaking rescue and relief operations. Kerala, which has contributed many models to the world, has set another example in this. I am sure Keralites would rise as one in future also to see that rehabilitation is done in an equally glittering way.
What’s your expectation about the cooperation of the vast NRK population in building a new Kerala?
Keralites as well as non-Keralites and even foreigners were forthcoming in extending a helping hand for Kerala. The response was unprecedented, even from the remote villages in India. Some help has arrived here already. In fact, I am surprised at the level of solidarity. I have already expressed my gratitude to all the sections that include everyone who might have even had a good thought about the state.
How do you assess this calamity? Is it a man-made one? How much of it could have been avoided?
We have done our maximum. Calamity is a calamity and we have to face it. I don’t intend to create or take part in any of the controversies.
The Opposition started talking about a mismanagement of dams. Was there any failure in managing the water level?
The persons responsible for dam management have come out with concrete statement of facts. They have provided details to me too. It’s very clear that all the mandatory procedures and humanly possible steps were taken.