The Kerala assembly on Tuesday witnessed heated exchanges between Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and opposition leader Oommen Chandy over rehabilitation of victims of the tsunami which hit the state six years ago.
The exchange took place after the opposition moved an adjournment motion stating that even after a lapse of more than three years, only 4,657 of the 12,052 houses for tsunami victims have been completed and given to them.
Later, Chandy led the entire opposition in a walkout protesting the delay in handing over the houses to the affected.
Tsunami struck coastal districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam districts Dec 26, 2004, leaving more than 170 people dead and rendering several homeless.
At that time it was Chandy who was the chief minister and for several months after the incident, he came under fire from the opposition for slow progress in tsunami victims' rehabilitation and alleged misuse of funds.
Moving the adjournment motion, P C George of Kerala Congress-Mani (KC-M) said it was a shame that the construction of houses for tsunami victims started more than three and a half years ago and not even half of them have been completed yet.
"Are you not ashamed and have you forgotten how much noise you made, while sitting in the opposition and accusing the then government of mismanagement. I was also part of you then. Now you are in government and you have been able to build not even half of the houses," said George, attacking the ruling alliance.
The central government had sanctioned the entire money needed for construction of the houses. The state government had to execute the project and for that it entrusted the work to 14 agencies, giving them a deadline of March 31, 2009.
Replying to the opposition's allegations, Revenue Minister K P Rajendran said one of the main reasons for the delay was the numerous court cases related to taking over of land for construction.
"In some cases, we had to even go to the Supreme court. A total of 7,421 houses are now under various stages of construction and we are certain that latest by December we will hand over these houses to the beneficiaries," said Rajendran.
But things came to a boil after Congress leader Chandy said that when he was the chief minister, baseless allegations were levelled against him.
"When you took over, you launched a vigilance inquiry against diversion of tsunami funds. It is more than four years now since you launched that inquiry, till date I have not been asked a single question by your officers. If there was any irregularity in that would you have spared me," asked Chandy.
To this, Balakrishnan replied that they were against the diversion of funds of tsunami after it was found out that it was given to people who were not affected by tsunami.
"You gave that money to many people in areas which were not affected by tsunami," said Balakrishnan.
"Everything is transparent and you have all the records, please check it for yourself," said Chandy, before leading the walkout from the house.