Kuwait tragedy: CM writes to Modi, protests decision to block Veena George's travel

Pinarayi Vijayan pays homage to people killed in Kuwait fire at Kochi airport. Photo: Special arrangement

Thiruvananthapuram: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that the Centre's decision to deny political clearance for health minister Veena George's travel to Kuwait went against the "essence of cooperative federalism".

The Chief Minister said that by denying clearance, the Centre has undermined a collective decision taken by the State Cabinet to send a minister to Kuwait to coordinate relief activities. He said the decision was taken because most of the victims of the fire were from Kerala. He said the minister's presence in Kuwait would have been of great assistance to the union minister of state and the Indian Embassy in Kuwait. "Her presence would also have offered emotional support to victims and their families," he wrote to the PM.

"In such situations, no political or non-political reasons should stand in the way of granting political clearance," the CM said.
The CM said the denial of political clearance would prevent a state government from fulfilling its obligations. He also wanted the PM to make sure that the Ministry of External Affairs responded more responsibly with states in future. "Mutual respect and trust between the Centre and states were inevitable to strengthen healthy cooperative federalism," the CM said.

Kerala Health Minister Veena George addresses media at the Nedumbassery Airport in Kochi on Thursday. Photo: Screengrab/Manorama News

He said that Kerala had applied for political clearance on the basis of the Cabinet Secretariat office memorandum on February 28, 2023.
On June 13, health minister Veena George and National Health Mission director Jeevan Babu had waited in the airport for nearly six hours after check-in and were told by around 9 p.m. that they could not fly. It was a special cabinet meeting held in the wake of the fire tragedy in Kuwait's Mangaf City that decided to send the health minister as Kerala's representative to Kuwait. The minister, after her clearance was denied, had said that she wanted to be with the injured, understand their specific problems and convey these to the Centre.

The Chief Minister had first expressed his disappointment on June 14, at the inaugural of the Loka Kerala Sabha. Then, he said it was part of an accepted tradition to be with close ones and comfort them in times of need. "When the health minister herself reaches there, she can understand the problems the injured are facing, listen to the Malayali diaspora and then do the needful. It is what Kerala expects," the CM had said.

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