Shailaja emerges as a corrective force. Contradicts Sivankutty's optimism about plus-one admissions

Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja

When a government refuses to entertain an adjournment motion moved by the Opposition in the Assembly, it generally conveys two things. One, the issue has already been tackled effectively by the government and, therefore, does not merit a two- or three-discussion postponing the usual proceedings of the day. Two, the Opposition is merely attempting to play to the gallery.

This is why 99% of adjournment motions moved by the opposition are usually rejected. The adjournment motion moved by the opposition on Monday, like any other such motions, was also rejected; it was about the plus-one admission crisis.

However, the Pinarayi Vijayan government just could not dismiss this adjournment motion like any other. Reason: the LDF's most popular MLA, former health minister K K Shailaja, also had broached the same topic through a Calling Attention motion.

Shailaja's Calling Attention on the need to ensure admission to all students who had passed the SSLC exam came right after the walk out staged by the Opposition in protest against the refusal of the Speaker to allow a discussion on the very same issue.

In fact, she repeated the very same arguments of the UDF leaders. It was evident that Shailaja rejected the 'all is fine' approach taken by V Sivankutty, the general education minister.

The minister, taking the number of seats and applicants for Kerala as a whole, said that there would even be an excess of over 33,000 seats. Like Opposition Leader V D Satheesan and Congress MLA Shafi Parambil, who moved the adjournment motion in the House on Monday, Shailaja also felt that the official numbers trotted out by the minister were misleading.

"I don't think looking at all-Kerala figures would be right. We should look at district-wise figures and then attempt to rearrange seats so that as many students could be admitted," Shailaja said. The Congress leaders, too, had used the word "rearrangement", which is nothing but a shift of seats from districts or taluks where there is excess plus-one seats to deficit districts or taluks.

Opposition leader V D Satheesan, Education Minister V Sivankutty
Opposition leader V D Satheesan, Education Minister V Sivankutty at during the Assembly session

Shailaja also warned Sivankutty about the legal dangers involved in the approach he had adopted. The government, to make up for the shortage of seats, had decided to increase seats by 10 to 20% in all districts. "We should examine whether an earlier High Court order would not stand in the way of such a decision," she said.

The Opposition Leader had also flagged the same issue. "The High Court order prohibiting more than 50 students in a class still stays. Last year, the government was exempted because of COVID," Satheesan said, and added: "And while giving exemption, the Court had also asked the government to put in place the necessary arrangements. What steps have you taken till now?"

The Opposition's proposal to solve the admission crisis, increase in batches, was ruled out by the government. Yet, on Monday, Shailaja wanted the general education minister to increase batches in school rather than merely increasing the class size.

This was not the first time that Shailaja had put the government in a spot inside the Assembly. During the last session, when the government patted itself on the back for its COVID relief measures, Shailaja said it was inadequate. She said the assistance declared for the small scale and traditional sectors offered nothing more than a temporary balm.

Almost parroting the Opposition, she called for a special package and interest-free loans for the small scale sector.

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