Paivalike (Kasaragod): Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan launched the Nava Kerala Sadas -- billed as a government event -- by firing salvos at the Congress, the BJP, and the media; and caressing the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), whom the CPM is aggressively courting now.
In his nearly 55-minute speech, he listed the achievements of his government since 2016 and compared the numbers with the UDF's tenure from 2011 to 2016. But the numbers were too heavy for the nearly 8,000 people who assembled for the maiden show of Nava Kerala Sadas at the Government Higher Secondary School at Paivalike in Manjeshwar assembly constituency on Saturday.
Twenty-five minutes into the Chief Minister's speech, the people started exiting the tent and by the 40th minute, 90% of the main tent was empty.
But the smaller tent, where the government was receiving complaints was brimming with people even when the chief minister ended his speech.
According to a Public Relations official of the government, around 2,000 petitions were received by the end of the day.
However, after the speech, Pinarayi Vijayan and his council of ministers left the venue in their special bus without interacting with the people or complainants.
The Chief Minister and his 20 ministers are touring all 140 assembly constituencies to announce the government's achievements, accept complaints, and interact with people as part of the Nava Kerala Sadas.
The Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) is boycotting the event, calling it an election campaign at taxpayers' expense.
'IUML boycotted the event at Congress's insistence'
The Chief Minister went out of his way to absolve the IUML from the UDF's decision to boycott the event.
Nava Kerala Sadas is entirely a government event, Chief Secretary D Venu welcomed the gathering, said Vijayan. "Normally in such events, the legislative member from the constituency plays an important role. We decided the legislative member should be the chairperson of the organising committee," he said.
When thousands of Manjeshwar residents have gathered here, the MLA (IUML's A K M Ashraf) would not be inclined to go into hiding, said Vijayan.
But he did not attend the event because of a decision taken by his leadership, said the chief minister. "If I have to be specific, it is not his party's leadership but the UDF's leadership, the Congress. The Congress was stubborn that the UDF should not take part in the event," he said.
When such a decision is taken, the Opposition MLAs can only obey it, he said.
'India at the bottom of indices'
Secularism is being challenged and communal forces are enjoying a free run in the country, said Pinarayi Vijayan. "One language, one tax, one personal law, one election, so many one, one, one slogans are being raised by the Indian government," he said.
The attempt is to hide the real issue facing the country, Vijayan said.
Kerala's population of extremely poor people is just 0.7%, a number any government can ignore. "The LDF government took a stance that even if it is one person, we cannot ignore," he said.
On November 1, the government announced that the population of extremely poor people has been halved further.
But at the national level, India is at 107th position among 121 countries in the Hunger Index, he said. "That is the situation of our country. Is the government paying any attention to these poor?" he said.
The BJP government is following the Congress's economic policy of globalisation where the rich become richer and the poor, poorer.
In the Human Development Index, India is ranked 132nd among 171 countries; in the Income Equality Index, it is 121st among 161 countries; it is 157th among 161 countries in spending on the health sector, said the Chief Minister.
In a country, where there is only one Left government, the media has set aside its dharma and portrayed it in a bad light. "Look at the freedom of media in the country. Among 180 countries, India is at 161st position," he said.
In Kerala, even the media do not have complaints that the state government's action affects press freedom, he said.
Union government squeezing Kerala
Kerala's share in the devolution of central taxes was 3.8% during the 10th Finance Commission (1995-2000). "It has now come down to 1.9% in the 15th Finance Commission. The loss to the state is Rs 18,000 crore," he said.
Kerala lost another Rs 12,000 crore when the Union government stopped GST compensation, he said.
We are not faltering. We are thriving. We will move ahead
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Kerala's resilience at the face of disasters such as floods, Okhi, Nipah, and COVID-19.
The government slashed Rs 8,400 crore from the grants it used to get for revenue loss. Along with that, the Union government is now allowing the state government to borrow money, he said. "In total, the Kerala government is suffering a loss of more than Rs 57,000 crore, money that should be used for the benefit of the people," he said.
The Union government has not given Rs 750 crore as part of the college teachers' salary revision, Rs 792 crore as part of paddy procurement, Rs 61 crore as part of implementing the Food Security Act, Rs 54 crore as part of its share in the school midday meals, Rs 52 crore as part of the grants given to urban local bodies, Rs 137 crore of health grants, said the chief minister.
UDF vs LDF
"Despite the financial crisis, we are implementing exemplary schemes in various sectors in the state," Vijayan said.
During the five years of the UDF from 2011 to 2016, Rs 808 crore was released from the CMDRF, the LDF government released Rs 7,600 crore in seven years
The welfare pension was Rs 600 but in 2016, there was arrears for two years. "Now, 60 lakh people are given Rs 1,600 per month as welfare pension," he said.
UDF gave Rs 1,543 crore to KSRTC in five years, and LDF gave Rs 9,700 crore, he said.
The Chief Minister said 4 lakh houses were built under the LIFE housing scheme. "LDF government took a decision not to label such houses because that will affect the self-respect of the beneficiaries," he said.
Between 2011 and 2016, 1.1 lakh title deeds were given to landless people; in the past seven years, 2 lakh title deeds were issued.
In the past seven years, the LDF government made 2.22 lakh PSC appointments. "That is higher than all the big states combined," he said.
Under the Karunya Health Insurance, 27.5 lakh people were given free treatments in 612 hospitals, the bill totaling Rs 2,762 crore.
The education sector saw an investment of Rs 4,300 crore; Rs 2,870 crore came from Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB).
Software exports were worth Rs 9,753 crore in 2016. Now it is Rs 17,546 crore, he said.
During the UDF era, 26,000 IT jobs were created, but in the past seven years, 62,000 jobs were created, he said.
Despite the financial crisis and disasters such as floods, Okhi, Nipah, and COVID-19, Kerala is among the top five states in the country. "We are not faltering. We are thriving. We will move ahead," the chief minister said.
People leave before CM ends speech
Ahead of the event, District Panchayat President Baby Balakrishnan said 15,000 people would attend the inaugural event of Nava Kerala Sadas. Around 7,000 people attended the event. But the tent was packed when the Chief Minister and his 20 ministers reached the venue.
But the crowd started leaving the venue when the Chief Minister started rolling out numbers to list out his achievements. But by the time he ended his speech, there were only 10% of the crowd in the tent.