Antony accuses Joseph of retracting on assurance

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JULY 20. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. A.K. Antony, today alleged that the Chief Minister, Mr. E.K. Nayanar, and the Education Minister, Mr. P.J. Joseph, were retracting from their assurance that the Higher Secondary education sector would not be starved off funds.

At a press conference here today, Mr. Antony said ever since the UDF embarked on its agitation, the Chief Minister, the Education Minister and the LDF convener, Mr. V.S. Achuthanandan, had been maintaining that funds would not be a problem for the Plus Two schools. Mr. Joseph had given an assurance in the Assembly on its concluding day that the Government would find the resources to meet its commitments.

But his statement that the Government would not be able to raise the resources was a confession that the Opposition stand was correct, he said. Mr. Antony said that the Government had created unnecessary tension in the education sector through its hasty decisions, taken without proper homework. As a result, the burden of raising resources to establish infrastructure facilities had fallen on the Parent Teachers' Associations.

He warned that students studying in schools without sufficient infrastructure would have to soon compete with their counterparts in the neighbouring States for admission in professional courses and entrance examinations. The Karnataka Government had earmarked Rs 1,400 crores for promoting computer education. In Tamil Nadu, the Plus Two courses had been retained in the junior colleges.

In a seven page charge-sheet of sorts distributed at the press conference, Mr. Antony alleged that the CPI(M)-led Government was adopting a Janus-faced attitude towards valid democratic agitations. Outside the State, it projected itself as the champion of civil rights and upholder of democratic values. Its attitude towards the democratic agitations in Kerala and in Delhi were contradictory. The Left parties had joined the Congress and the UDF partners in stalling parliamentary proceedings over the Gujarat Government's decision to permit its officials to join the RSS. Even Question Hour was stalled during the budget session of Parliament. During the parliamentary agitation, dialogues were held six times. Finally the agitation was called off when the Centre intervened and got the Gujarat Government to withdraw its orders. At that time, the Government business was not conducted in Parliament.

The attitude of the CPI(M)-led LDF was different in the Kerala Assembly. ``By passing the budget in lightning speed, the LDF Government adopted a procedure which even Mr. Vajpayee hesitated to do in Delhi. In Andhra Pradesh, the Congress(I) and the Left parties, including the CPI(M) were leading an agitation against reforms in the power sector. In some places, the CPI(M) cadres even blocked the Chief Minister, Mr. Chandrababu Naidu. The party had one position in Delhi, another in Hyderabad and yet another one in Thiruvananthapuram,'' he said.

Even on the issue related to agitations in the education sector, the Government adopted double standards. The 1987 Nayanar Government ordered an inquiry into the policy decision taken by the erstwhile Karunakaran Ministry to introduce PDC board. But the present Nayanar Ministry was not ready to order a judicial probe by a sitting judge of the High Court even after the High Court verdict, which termed the Government decisions on the Plus Two schools as irregular, arbitrary, and anti-constitutional. It was difficult to agree to the State Government's stand that the same yardstick applied in the case of the former Chief Minister, Mr. Karunakaran and the former Education Minister, Mr. T. M. Jacob could not be applied when it came to Mr. Nayanar and Mr. Joseph, he added.

Mr. Antony expressed regrets at the Government attempts to stifle democratic dissent, by concluding the Assembly session and suppressing agitations using the police. He said that the UDF would strengthen its agitation demanding a judicial probe by a sitting judge and the resignation of Mr. Joseph.

In reply to a question, he said that top priority should be given to solving the crisis in the education sector. ``The government could do nothing during the last three years when PDC delinking started. It would be preposterous to state that it would be able to solve all problems within a week,'' he said and suggested that the Government should continue PDC for a year or two.

Replying to Mr. Nayanar's charges of a BJP-Congress conspiracy, Mr. Antony said that the Chief Minister's statement was intended to divert attention from the educational crisis which was looming large before the Government. He said that he had condemned the Thiruvananthapuram violence allegedly unleashed by the RSS in no mean terms. The charge that some of his partymen were hand in glove with a few RSS leaders in the violence was a cock and bull story. ``It is an attempt to deflect the wrath of the people,'' he said.

He said that the Government should give liberal compensation to those who suffered damages in last week's violence in the State Capital. ``It would not be a problem as the Government was liberal in doling out compensation to Marxist cadres from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. So why should those affected be compensated in a similar manner,'' he asked.