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Friday, July 10, 2020

protests in Kerala against CM Pinarayi - on gold scam !!

The media, which sometimes is paid, many times is remote-controlled creates perceptions that strongly weigh in the minds of common man.  The unanswered Q is – the direct relevance of Educational qualifications with Good Governance !

Tamilnadu had a golden rule under Mr K Kamaraj who was not a graduate.  Mr Edappadi Palaniswamy too is managing well, again not a graduate – significantly both are not from tinseldom too ! .. .. Media have oft repeated Mr Arvind Kejriwal to be the most intelligent followed by Pinarayi Vijayan.  Kejriwal graduated from IIT in Mechanical Engineering;  Pinarayi holds BA Economic degree -; while Media’s bete-noire Mr Ajay Mohan Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath holds a Bachelor degree in Mathematics.

For months, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan was getting unprecedented television prime time each evening, appearing on Malayalam channels and giving out the statistics of the day’s coronavirus statistics. With just over two dozen COVID-19-related deaths in the state, Vijayan and his health minister K.K. Shailaja have won applause across India and even internationally.

Kerala has not quite excelled in behaviour as the most literate State – first when there was lockdown there were reports of suicides arising out of liquor unavailability and now the action of some affected people against medical professionals !! 

A medical team that went to the coastal village of Poonthura off Thiruvananthapuram for Covid-19 swab collection Friday were surrounded by angry locals who threatened them with expletives and even coughed at them. Poonthura and its adjoining areas have been described by government officials as exhibiting a ‘super spread’ of the coronavirus infections with over 200 persons testing positive in the last week alone. On Friday morning, dozens of men and women came onto the streets in the village agitating against the tight lockdown restrictions and claiming that the health department’s data on infections among them was hyped. They protested without masks and by abandoning social distancing regulations.

India’s Covid-19 cases and deaths per million population is still among the lowest in the world, despite being a country with 1.3 billion people, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Thursday.  Amid a sudden surge in coronavirus patients across states over the last few weeks, the country’s viral caseload is an estimated 2,69,000 people. “When we talk of the caseload of Covid-19 in India, it is 2,69,000 people. This tells us that at the end of the day we’ve managed a situation where our health care infrastructure is not unduly burdened and is not creaking due to the pressure,” Bhushan said. 

While Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi are running at the top with more than lakh of cases, Kerala reported 272 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, the highest single-day spike in the state till date, taking the total count of coronavirus infections to 5,894.  Of the new cases, 157 came from abroad while 38 were from other states, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters, according to news agency PTI.  Giving the district-wise breakup of cases, the CM said Malappuram continued to record the highest number of cases with 63 people getting infected today.

The record single-day spike in the southern state came a day after the state government imposed a week-long triple lockdown in capital Thiruvananthapuram and in parts of Malappuram district. The lockdown has been imposed at the street, mohalla (locality) and town levels with people restricted from leaving their houses and strict surveillance in place.   A coastal village in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram has been cordoned off and around 25 commandos have been positioned in that area as testing has shown a spread and spike of COVID-19 cases locally. This, health experts say, is possibly a first evolving cluster in the state, with more than one "super-spreaders" identified.

"A super-spreader is anyone who infects more than six people. In Punthoora,  it is the first evolving cluster in Kerala , where multiple super spreaders have been identified", Dr Mohammad Asheel told NDTV, health expert and core member of team dealing with COVID 19 in the state told NDTV.

From all the limelight, there appears some slip – a   series of missteps over the past few weeks, and an embarrassing case of officials in the chief minister’s office being linked to a shocking gold smuggling case have suddenly put the chief minister on shaky ground. One of the first controversies was the government’s decision to enter into a contract with US-based Sprinklr for analysis of data related to COVID-19 patients. The Opposition raised serious concerns of data likely being misused by the company, as well as the manner in which state IT secretary M. Shivshankar handed the contract to Sprinklr on his own volition. The CM, however, shielded the officer.

Walking out of the Sprinklr controversy, the government walked right into another one, by initiating a mobile app to sell liquor from its monopoly outlets managed by the Kerala State Beverages Corporation. The app, named BevQ, was meant to control anticipated crowding at liquor outlets. The government once more lost face as the app took much longer to develop than expected, and when it was officially launched it was found that there were no major crowds to buy liquor, with the common man’s earnings severely affected by job losses as a result of COVID-19.

The Sprinklr and BevQ missteps have now been dwarfed by the gold smuggling case using diplomatic channels, which has drawn the chief minister’s office into the controversy. The gold smuggling case involves a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Kerala, Swapna Prabha Suresh, and her accomplices smuggling a large quantity of gold into the state, misusing diplomatic channels.  This came to light when a baggage of 30 kg of gold, concealed in plumbing equipment in a diplomatic baggage was caught.   Meanwhile, the state’s early achievements on the Covid front are also slipping, with a spurt in cases in recent days. On Tuesday, there were 272 fresh cases, including as many as 68 who got it through community spreading.

People get guided by the news channels and presenters who depict their version of the story !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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