Kerala health minister sparks row, says Centre didn’t let her travel to Kuwait | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Kerala health minister sparks row, says Centre didn’t let her travel to Kuwait

Jun 14, 2024 03:48 PM IST

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said right now, the state and central governments must work together and coordinate efforts to help people

KOCHI: A row erupted on Friday after Kerala health minister Veena George claimed the ministry of external affairs (MEA) did not give political clearance for her trip to Kuwait against the backdrop of the fire this week that killed 45 Indians including 23 from the southern state.

Kerala health minister Veena George consoles the mother of Akash Sasidharan Nair, one of the victims of a fire that broke out in a building housing foreign workers in Kuwait, at Pathanamthitta district of Kerala (REUTERS)
Kerala health minister Veena George consoles the mother of Akash Sasidharan Nair, one of the victims of a fire that broke out in a building housing foreign workers in Kuwait, at Pathanamthitta district of Kerala (REUTERS)

The minister said she and Jeevan Babu, state mission director (National Health Mission), were to fly to Kuwait on Thursday morning to oversee the medical treatment being provided to the injured from the state. Since the trip required MEA’s political clearance, the state’s chief secretary and resident commissioner in Delhi made the request and followed it up

“We were hopeful of getting the clearance at the last minute and even travelled to the airport in Kochi....but the MEA did not give the political clearance for the travel. The death of each person from India in Kuwait is saddening. But Kerala has lost the most number of people in this tragedy,” the minister told reporters.

“A lot of people injured in the fire are undergoing treatment in hospitals. Their families are not with them. So in the face of this tragedy, these deaths and the grief, the stance of the Centre towards Kerala was wrong and highly unfortunate,” added George.

There is no word from MEA on the Kerala minister’s statement.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who paid respects to the deceased after their bodies were transported to Kochi by an IAF aircraft from Kuwait, also said the Centre’s decision was ‘wrong’ but indicated that he didn’t want to raise it now.

“I don’t intend to raise it now as a serious issue, maybe, we can discuss it later. Right now, the state and central governments must work together and coordinate efforts to help these families affected by the tragedy,” he said.

The Congress also backed the state government and termed the Centre’s decision ‘most unfortunate.’

“When such tragedies occur in foreign countries, it’s important that representatives of state and central governments are present there. The Centre’s representative went early, but if the state representative was also there, she could have coordinated efforts with the local Malayali expatriate outfits there. The Centre’s decision sends a wrong message,” said VD Satheesan, leader of the opposition in Kerala Assembly.

BJP leader and union minister of state Suresh Gopi said there was no place for such controversies.

“There is no need to see politics in it. Every person has a position and responsibilities. The MEA is in charge of matters like these and decisions have been taken within the ambit of cooperative federalism. S Jaishankar and his team have done a good job. An MoS was deputed to go to Kuwait and everything has been handled well,” said Gopi.

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