As the Pinarayi Vijayan completes his first year as CM, it is clear that 2016-2017 is one of the worst years in the political and economic history of Kerala.
There is bad news on political violence and intimidation, crimes against women and children, on investments, economy and jobs. In 2016, as people went to polls to throw out the Corruption ridden UDF government, the feeling was that any Government would be an improvement . But one year of CM Pinarayi Vijayan has proved that things could be worse and it is.
In this first year, the report card of this Government is stark – Supreme Court slap down on his removal of a honest DGP and head of Police, 2 Ministers having to resign, unprecedented rise of political violence costing 293 deaths including for the first time children and family members of political workers, rise in crimes against women and girl children, continued encroachment of forest land in Munnar, the plight of tribal and landless continuing unabated , little or no private investments or jobs , Opposition from his own left front partner CPI on issues like Munnar , Ministers using foul language against women of the state etc.
The only positive in this report card full of failures is that he has managed to keep his party CPM still behind him and murmurs of opposition stifled there. Performance of the CM in Kerala could be well echoed in the alarming question raised by the Kerala High Court in April: ‘What’s happening in Kerala ?’ .
It may be a fair argument that 12 months is too short a time to judge a CM and Government. But it is long enough time to understand the type of Governance that a CM is capable off. And so its an understatement to say that these 12 months are not just disappointing but worrying. 4 more years of such Governance that is characterized by violence, intimidation rather than governance and development for people – is very bad news.
There is a reason for this off course – the Marxists find themselves in a world where their ideas and ideologies aren’t relevant anymore. They have clung on to power in Kerala by being the only alternative to the Congress. Even that distinction is blurred after both the Marxists and the Congress have aligned in West Bengal and in the Centre. In a nutshell the Congress and Marxists are trying to occupy the same political space – and there is no distinction between their economic and political ideologies – Only difference is that while the Congress relies on Corruption , the Marxists rely on Violence as the fuel for their respective politics.
Kerala is stuck with Pinarayi Vijayan for the next four years and the expectations from Malayalees are clear:
1. End the Political Violence
The CM is the Home Minister also. He must end the political violence. The political violence is not just about lives and disrupting families – it is having a big impact on private and public investments into the State. Investors don’t want to invest and create jobs in a State that is being perceived as a sponsor of political violence with no heed or respect for law or individual rights and liberty.
19 persons, including four CPM political workers who were disillusioned by the Marxist ideology were brutally killed by the CPM goons, within 11 months into power. Kannur alone witnessed 436 incidents of violence in this short time.Violence has reached innocent families and housewives belonging to the traditional CPM cadres as well, as in the case of Mahija and K K Rema; who stood against Pinarayi purely on issues of personal grievances like demise of their child or spouse.
Political violence may be Marxist idealogy and dogma. But as CM he has taken an oath to uphold the law and ensure safety of all citizens. He should put a stop to it and create a perception of respect for law if our State’s development is to be revived.
2. Stop the Politicization of Police – and make it their job to make citizens safe
The Police by virtue of being under you and after your short-lived effort of shunting out the DGP are becoming more political than public servants. Crimes against famous women film stars and children dot the reporting from our State. This perception of a lawless anarchic State with a dysfunctional police is neither good nor acceptable. Take the initiative – and start getting the police to enforce the law instead of being complicit in law breaking or ignoring the law.
The way in which T P Senkumar , a sincere and the senior most Police Officer in the State was humiliated, insulted and illtreated for months together is a classic example of CPI(M)’s brazen politicization of Police. The kind of behaviour extended to Senkumar , despite being reinstated as State DGP after Supreme Court orders reveals this further.
3. Take all steps to prevent Radicalization and ISIS growth in Kerala
Recent reports and investigations that point to Kerala becoming a haven for ISIS is certainly a very disturbing development. Even good law abiding Muslims feel threatened by the unfettered rise of Radical Islam in our state.
It is shocking to see that 21 out of the 70 youngsters recruited from India by ISIS are from Kerala, making the State the largest base. Recently the NIA has arrested a group of IS men from Kannur, including their division in-charges who were in direct contact with IS leadership in Syria and Afghanistan.
It is no surprise that the Kerala Police had no clue of any of this or if they did they could not act as the NIA did. The politicization of the Police makes the situation worse and more dangerous for our State. With the Police reluctant to intervene in Politically sensitive cases and with both the UDF and LDF hopelessly incapable of taking on rogue elements within the minority communities for fear of antagonizing them, the situation in coming years is going to become worse and not better.
4. Munnar Issue
Munnar in specific and Western ghats in general are sensitive areas and core to Kerala being God’s own country. This is not just an environment elitist issue but it impacts water, weather, health and sanitation around the area. This is a burning issue for Malayalees and CPI(M) even placed it as an item in its election manifesto, that all illegal encroachments will be evicted. As a year passed since they are into power, nothing did happen in Munnar. The CM, Ministers, MLA, MP, other elected representatives, local politicians etc. from LDF and UDF are uniting together to intimidate duty bound officials and use fowl, abusive language to demoralize them, directly and indirectly.
It may be worth reminding the CM again and again that the election manifesto of LDF assured bringing out white papers on Munnar, every six months. So its time he released that white paper immediately and give directions to local administration to enforce all laws without dilution against every lawbreaker without fear or favour.
5. Economy and Employment
In addition to the political violence, the economy is the other ‘big contribution’ of CM and his Government. According to the annual Employment-Unemployment Survey 2017 of the Ministry of Labour, GoI, Kerala State ‘enjoys’ the status of largest rate of unemployment at 12.5%, with national average at 5%. To any responsible leader, this should be an alarm bell and spurring him into acting to stop the violence that is keeping investors away. But this CM continues to play the role of Nero fiddling while Rome burns.
I have met global investors who refuse to even consider Kerala as a destination because of the political violence and crimes that is in the headlines every day. This in itself is driving away investors from here and preventing job opportunities for our youth.
Only investments will create jobs. It is not enough for the Chief Minster to wake up occasionally and say we welcome investments. Inbound investment is no longer about having a one-off event for inviting it. The CM is still caught in the 90s when one such event is enough to bring funds.
Formation Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), a so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) shows lack of vision and imagination with Kerala government on financial issues in the changing era. KIIFB targets Rs 50,000 Crores as investments in 5 years; with no funds allocated in the State budget, without clarity on sourcing of funds, returns to investors and functional modalities. A year had already gone after Kerala’s Finance Minister announcing KIIFB and not a single investor turned this side. And as an eyewash, government is now planning to divert finances from other government agencies into KIIFB to ensure its not a failure. With many other government agencies -like KSIDC, INKEL, KINFRA, KSIE, KFC, SIDECO etc.- already operating on similar lines, KIIFB is going to be another white elephant.
If educational reforms could be the yardstick to judge quality of any government and its vision for future generations, the present Kerala government could again be the worst. At a time when the whole nation is turning towards skill-oriented educational systems, Kerala education department ministered by a former college teacher, has made no efforts in this regard. Instead, they are delicately attempting to protect private managements of the outdated self-financing engineering colleges.
Once known for its punctuality, none of the University examinations are now conducted in time. Kerala Technological University, which came into being to sort-out catastrophe in engineering education is stuck with no clarity on issues of affiliation, command over institutions, conduct of exams and the like.
There are reports that the fall in the quality of engineering education has resulted in top recruiters skipping self-financing colleges in Kerala for campus placements by 40% , this year.
Only one, the Kerala University alone finding 47th place among the top fifty universities of quality education in the National Institutional Ranking Framework 2017 underlines where Kerala State is, in terms of its standards in education.
This could also be the first time when the sanctity of SSLC, Plus 1 examinations were marred by question paper leaks and copying questions from model question papers etc. So please focus on the Education sector Mr. Chief Minister.
7. Chaotic Public Distribution System
With 80 lakhs households in Kerala depending on rations for their living, the public distribution system in Kerala is in rumbles. With the 2 State-run agencies, SUPPLYCO and the CONSUMERFED, intended to control market prices of essential commodities known for widespread corruption and financial irregularities already in bad shape, CM has done nothing so far. As a result, market price of rice, pulses and essential cereals are skyrocketing on daily basis – classic signs of hoarding and rampant corruption.
Government has yet to solve the issue of regular supply of essential food items at reasonable prices through our ration depots either. In the meantime, farmers are to be paid assured support price for paddy cultivated in Central Travancore.
Validity of latest ration cards, issued on 1 November 2009 expired in 2012. The process for issuing new ration cards which began subsequently has reached nowhere till date. 16, 73, 422 complaints regarding wrong entries and other anomalies in the new list prepared by Government has not been cleared. An estimated 6 lakhs un-entitled entries were identified in the BPL segment but still no action has been taken, to clear the anomalies. Such rampant pilferage means those poor and needy that deserve the benefits will not get it. It is a sad state of affairs that out of the 14203 retail ration shops, 6 outlets could only be computerised in the last few years.
8. Hiding Incompetence and Failures by Blaming Central Government
A common practice with the Kerala governments, both LDF and UDF has always been to complain against the Central government for its ‘step-motherly attitude’, ignoring state’s demands’ etc.
I cant say for the past central governments. But this Prime Minister and this Government is the most committed one to Kerala in recent years. Apart from nominating two MPs from the state, it is clear from various central program allocations that the PM is very keen to ensure Kerala joins the mainstream States in terms of a sustainable development model.
Pinarayi Vijayan Government, when it complains is being miserly with the truth. He fails to disclose every time, he complains about the fact that his Government does not comply with the conditions of audit and outcomes that are linked to Central Government schemes. That is why in many cases after the first tranche is released against a program, followup tranches cant be .
In recent weeks CM has trained his guns on me. Hoping perhaps to intimidate me . That is of course not going to happen. Many have tried during my 11 years in Politics and all have failed. There is a recent pathetic effort to try and arrest me. I dare Pinarayi Vijayan to do that. Come arrest me. I neither scare easily nor get stray from my path due to threats and intimidation. My politics and public work is based on clear principles and objectives of development and equity.
Our State and our people deserve better than what we have seen in the last year. The State and its people cannot afford another 4 years of the same. I may have my political differences with the CM and his Government , but I am convinced that we must all work together to revive our State. Our politics needs to be transformed for the State’s full potential to be unleashed. I hope the CM changes from the politics of confrontation to one of constructive rebuilding of our State’s economy and governance.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar is a Member of Parliament from the Rajya Sabha and Vice Chairman of NDA in Kerala. Views expressed are personal of the author and does not reflect those of The Kochi Post.