Oppn. walks out over failed COVID-19 policy

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan. File   | Photo Credit: K. Ragesh

Members of the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) walked out of the Assembly on Tuesday accusing the government of inflicting an economically crippling and inherently flawed COVID-19 lockdown regime on the State.

The UDF legislators also attempted to put the government on the dock for “undercounting” COVID-19 deaths.

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said the Information Kerala Mission (IKM) had put the death count at 23,486 (since January 2020). However, the Chief Minister's Office had fixed it at 16,170. It had not accounted for 7,316 fatalities, he said.

The Opposition flayed the government for failing to transfer cash directly to the people. Such a move would revive the economy by prompting increased spending.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s ₹20,000-crore stimulus package was a farce. It had no budgetary backing. The State had neither protected lives nor preserved livelihood.

In contrast, neighbouring Tamil Nadu had successfully reined in the pandemic, allowed the economy to open up and transferred ₹4,000 to ration cardholders.

Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader P.K. Kunhalikutty had sought the leave of the House to discuss the government’s abject failure in reining in the disease and reviving the economy.

He said the government had struck a casual attitude to the people's sufferings. However, it had mitigated crowding at liquor outlets to some measure by extending timings and allowing legal alcohol on all weekdays. It should do the same for the ailing non-essential retail and service sectors.

Mr. Satheesan said the government had relegated COVID-19 management to bureaucrats. They existed in privileged isolation, far removed from the commoners’ woes. The officialdom could not relate to the pandemic induced daily deprivation faced by the masses. They framed rules with no thought for the human condition, he said.

The State's economy was in a downward spiral. Non-Resident Indians’ remittances had dwindled to a trickle. People were on the verge of suicide. The lockdown regime had failed to contain the disease, he said.

Mr. Satheesan demanded a pandemic relief commission to look into sector-wise losses sustained by the economy.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the UDF's opposition to COVID-19 had no scientific basis. An estimated 50% of the State's population were yet to contract the virus and, hence, vulnerable to the infection. Vaccine shortage plagued the State's universal inoculation programme.

The Chief Minister said 14% of the State's population were geriatric. Lifestyle diseases were common. The spectre of a third wave loomed. The test positivity rate (TPR) remained unrelentingly high at 10% or more. Kerala could ill afford to abruptly reverse pandemic regulations. The government had struck a cautious approach to deregulation.

Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal reeled off the State's various pandemic impelled social welfare schemes, including distribution of pension and food kits, to counter the UDF's allegations.

Speaker M.B. Rajesh deemed Mr. Vijayan's reply satisfactory and denied the UDF's notice.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 11:39:28 PM |

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