A representative has been appointed to coordinate with Centre on state’s affairs.
New Delhi: Kerala, which is in the throes of another natural disaster that has already claimed over 100 lives this month, is facing acute financial crisis. Though this is something not new to the state, this time things are pretty bad since relief is only trickling in compared to last time. The state is yet to recover from last year’s deluge that crippled the economy so badly that many ambitious plans to rebuild Kerala still remain on paper. But that seems to have not deterred the Left Front government from splurging on administrative reforms, or so it seems.
Even as the relief work among those affected in the last deluge is progressing at a snail’s pace, there have been reports that the state government is spending a huge amount from the relief funds in sprucing up the office of Rebuild Kerala Initiative (RKI) in the state capital. An order issued by the planning and economic affairs department shows that the government is spending Rs 88.5 lakh from the RKI fund to furnish the RKI office in a rented property next to the state secretariat building.
It is said that the office has been rented even when enough space is available in government-owned buildings in the city. Interestingly, the building chosen for setting up the RKI office is in the midst of a controversy and is owned by the family which runs the Kerala Law Academy, which itself was at the centre of a huge students’ protest two years ago. The Academy is owned by a family close to the CPM and CPI, and is under a cloud over possession of prime government land in the capital. It is said that while the maximum amount granted for rebuilding a flood-damaged house was only Rs 4 lakh, the doors alone for the RKI office will cost Rs 4.57 lakh.
If setting up such a palatial office is not enough for relief work, the government has now appointed a special representative in Delhi, apparently to coordinate work with different ministries there regarding developmental work in the state. The state government’s decision to appoint A. Sampath, a three-time MP of the CPM, who lost this time, as the special representative with Cabinet rank has been flayed by the Opposition as “extravagant expenditure”. “The decision to give a post with Cabinet rank to someone who was defeated in the election is something which has not been heard in the history of the state,” KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran said.
Mullappally seems to have been mild in his criticism. Forget the fact that Sampath is a defeated MP, his track record in Parliament is nothing to write home about. Moreover, there is a full-fledged Kerala House in Delhi manned by senior IAS officers to look after the interests of the state on a day-to-day basis. Not to speak of 29 MPs from the state belonging to both the Houses of the Parliament. It is obvious that Sampath’s posting has been a political one at the expense of the people of Kerala. A government that came to power promising to set things right has not got anything right, going by this decision. Instead of reducing expenses, this government has done everything to increase the financial burden on the people.
Sampath’s will be the fourth Cabinet posting outside the government. Already the government has appointed a Chief Whip, Chairman of Kerala State Welfare Corporation for Forward Communities and Chairman for Administrative Reforms Commission with Cabinet ranks. While the Chief Whip is just an ornamental post, it carries all the perks that go with that of a Cabinet minister. What the chairmen of the two commissions do is anybody’s guess. Three years have gone and nobody knows anything about the reports submitted by the commissions.
Along with the appointment of Sampath, the state government has also created the post of one private secretary, two assistants, one office assistant and a driver’s post for his office in New Delhi. All these are in addition to the bureaucratic paraphernalia from the Kerala House at the beck and call of Sampath.
As per the government guideline, the duties of Sampath will be to follow up with the Centre on various Centrally-sponsored schemes for the state and also for getting financial assistance for those projects mooted by the state government. However, the moot question remains: why this late realisation on the part of the state government to appoint an envoy in Delhi with barely two years left for the tenure of the government to end? Grapevine has it that the CBI appeals against the discharge of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC-Lavlin case that are pending in the Supreme Court may come up for hearing sooner or later. And Sampath’s main job will be to see everything is in order.