The ambitious program involves the Kerala Cabinet addressing four conclaves daily during this nearly month-long journey. The move, however, has sparked controversy as the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, was critical of a similar Mass Contact Programme during the tenure of then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy when the LDF was in opposition. At that time, the LDF dismissed it as a mere gimmick, stating that the Chief Minister was wasting time on tasks that could be handled by a revenue department clerk.
Now in power, the LDF is undertaking a similar program with heightened grandeur, with the entire Cabinet set to be on the move for nearly 36 days. While critics view it as a political stunt in anticipation of the upcoming parliament election, the LDF, CPM, and the ruling apparatus argue that it serves as a comprehensive review of the LDF’s achievements and aims to formulate an action plan for the next two years of governance.
The Keralites see it as a mere political stunt with an eye on the ensuing parliament election. On the other hand, the CPM, LDF and the entire ruling apparatus uphold it as a programme to review the achievements of the LDF rule and to prepare the action plan for the next two years of LDF rule (as the next assembly election is due in May, 2026).
But, what right thinking people fail to understand is the logic behind the reckless spending spree for the entire thamasha. Rs. 1.05 crores have been sanctioned for the bus. The Benz chassis alone costs Rs 44 lakhs. Remaining amount has been spent for body building. Answering the question about the logic behind such spending, top CPM leaders say, it is not a waste; it can be used after the completion of the Nav Kerala Sadas. When asked ‘for what purpose’, the funny answer is ‘even you can suggest’ ! It is having all luxurious amenities like swivel chairs, kitchenette, and washroom. CPM leader, and CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s Man, Friday A.K. Balan reportedly told the media that if the tender is invited for buying the bus, it will command a price two times more than now. If it is exhibited in the museum lakhs of people will come and see it !!!
But, no doubt, what Kerala witnesses is blatant misuse of power. There are reports that Malappuram district Programme Manager has directed ASHA workers to actively engage in the programme in the district. It is alleged that it is to ensure substantial attendance for the fete.
Another reports says, Director Public Instruction (DPI), also known as Depart of School Education, has asked the schools to provide the school buses, meant for the to and fro conveyance of the students, for the Nava Kerala Sadas. There are also allegations that labourers under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme are asked to attend the programme. Moreover, if the entire cabinet is away from the capital for a long period, who will run the show in the secretariat is a one million dollar question.
And, another disturbing instruction from the government, despite pitiable fiscal situation government undergoes, is regarding the fund raising for the Nava Kerala Sadas. Cooperative societies have been reportedly instructed to contribute. Registrar of the Cooperative Department has issued an order in this respect. Reports suggest, every Gram Panchayat is expected to spend up to Rs 50,000 for the Sadas in their jurisdiction. Municipalities and Block Panchayats are expected to part with a maximum amount of Rs 1 lakh. Municipal Corporation up to Rs 2 lakhs and District Panchayat a maximum of Rs 3 lakhs for Nava Kerala Sadas. But, local bodies governed by BJP and Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) resist this. The local self-government institutions are expected to use their funds for mega events, in the respective assembly constituencies, to highlight LDF government’s achievements.
The ‘luxury trip’ should be viewed in the light of the acute financial crisis the state undergoes.
It is too early to forget that Kerala High Court criticized Kerala Chief Secretary on November 8 in sharp terms regarding the failure of the Pinarayi Vijayan regime in distributing the pension for the Kerala Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) employees. The salaries for the serving employees are also not regular.
Chief Secretary V Venu submitted before the Court, in an online appearance on November 8, that government struggles to meet even the daily routine expenses. That is the gravity of the crisis state undergoes. Chief Secretary stated before the Court that Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) employees’ salaries for the month of October would be paid before November 30. It was when the Court asked for the reason for the delay that Chief Secretary told about the acute financial crisis the state undergoes. Chief Secretary submitted that it is not possible to support KSRTC for ever.
In the meantime, Koompanpara native Mariyamma and Polinjapalan native Annamma, two octogenarian women, have ventured into ‘protest begging’ in Adimali Town, Idukki district. They have not gotten welfare pensions since the last five months, so that they do not have money even for buying their medicines. It is estimated that about 60 lakhs people are in the payroll of social security and welfare pensions at the minimum rate of Rs 1,600 per month.
HC had lost its temper when the Chief Secretary could not attend the court online; the excuse cited was his role as the general convener of ‘Keraleeyam 23’ the state government-sponsored extravaganza. It was not acceptable for HC. That is why Court said that while the government is celebrated, people do suffer.
According to reports, government spent about Rs 27 cr for the ‘Keraleeyam 23’ event, which is reported to be organised in connection with the state’s foundation day (November 1).
Observers view this as part of the general policy of the Pinrayi Vijayan-led CPM Government to ignore and neglect the genuine grievances of the people. Otherwise, two senior Civil Service officers would not have evaded the High Court instruction to appear online on November 6. But, the luxuries for the ministers and officials find no leaps and bounds. Volumes of allegations speak this out. People are fed up with the spending spree of the government.
People who step into Civil Supplies Corporation aka Supplyco shops, step back in no time as there is no stock of the essential provision commodities there. The very idea behind the launch of Supplyco was to sell essential commodities at reasonable prices, a bliss for the middle class and the poor. But, now gone are those days. That is the financial condition of the state government.
Three farmers committed suicide in Kerala during the single month of November, 2023. Prasad, Subramanian and Thomas of Alappuzha, Kannur and Wynad districts respectively, thanks to the negligence they suffered at the hands of the government.
Union Minister V Muraleedharan said that it is not Nava Kerala Sadas, but Naaduvaazhi (feudalist) Sadas. He said this in view of the pathetic economy the state suffers. He teased CPM leader A.K. Balan’s statement that if the luxury bus is exhibited, lakhs of people would come to museum to have a look of it. Minister said that people will have to visit museums to have a look of CPM in the near future.
BJP state president K. Surendran told that the CM and his aides are carrying out luxury travels while the people starve in the state. He alleged that LDF government spends the treasury monies for their election campaign. Farmers commit suicide as they are not getting the benefits due to them. The government which does not part with the monies for the construction of the houses for the homeless under Life Mission Scheme do go for Nava Kerala Sadas for the sake of the image boost exercise. Surendran demanded the earliest disbursements of the welfare pension of the poor. Government should have the minimum courtesy to reduce the heavy tax burden thrust upon the people. Government should immediately freeze the hike in the electricity and water charges and in the building tax. But, Government appears to be all set to increase the prices of the essential commodities when the Nav Kerala Sadas culminates. Kerala Road rules are not applicable to the luxury bus organised for the Cabinet. The same Motor Vehicle Department taxes penalty on the private vehicles. This is double standard, Surendran said.