Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday slammed the centre's decision to suspend the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds for two years and transfer it to the centre's consolidated fund in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"People of the area have the right to benefit from MPLAD funds. It is not fair for the centre to use this fund to mobilise their resources. In fact, it goes against our federal ideals," Pinarayi said in his daily press meet.
He added that these funds allotted to the MPs should ideally be mobilised by the states to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. "Many MPs here in Kerala were preparing to use their funds to fight COVID-19. This has now disrupted thanks to the centre's decision," he said. Recently, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor had used his MPLAD funds to procure COVID-19 testing kits for his constituency.
Nine test positive on Tuesday
On Tuesday, 9 more persons were tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Kerala, taking the state's total count to 336 cases. Four cases have been reported from Kasaragod, 3 from Kannur and 1 each from Kollam and Malappuram.
Four of these people had returned from foreign countries, two were attendees of the Nizamuddin Markaz conference in Delhi and 3 people had contracted the virus through contact, the CM said.
Meanwhile, 12 people from Thiruvananthapuram, Kannur, Ernakulam Alapuzha Kasaragod have also recovered in Kerala as on Tuesday.
"A total 1,46,686 people are placed under observation out of which 752 are in hospitals and the rest are home quarantined. Out of these 131 people were hospitalised today," he confirmed.
Speaking about Malayali nurses who tested positive in Mumbai's Wockhardt hospital, Pinarayi added that the state has the responsibility to support these health workers who fought the pandemic.
"I have written to the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers of Delhi and Mumbai to ensure adequate protection is offered to these health care workers," he said, urging Malayali organisations and volunteer groups spread across India to help these health care staff in whatever ways possible.
The CM announced that Rs 5 crore has been set aside for the staff of temples under the Malabar Devaswom Board in order to support them and pay their salaries.
In order to support fruit and vegetable growers who are unable to sell their produce due to the pandemic, the CM announced that the Agriculture Department had decided to buy the produce through farmers markets in the state.
Further, some MLAs including PT Thomas and VS Achuthanandan had also pledged their funds to upgrade medical facilities - including ventilators, PPE kits, medical equipment, drugs etc - to contain COVID19. The funds will be used to upgrade hospitals in the constituencies of these MLAs.
With children sitting at home during the lockdown, the Chief Minister instructed libraries and vayanashalas in the state to home deliver children's books in order to keep kids busy.
Pinarayi slams Mulappally Ramachandran
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Mulappally Ramachandran had earlier questioned why the Kerala government held a video conferencing meet on COVID19 with rich NRI businessmen. Mulappally criticised CPI(M) accusing the party leadership of favouring rich NRIs.
Reacting to the criticism, Pinarayi said that the video conferencing meet included 40 NRIs from 20 countries. "It included billionaires, common people, professionals, leaders of volunteer groups etc. The meet was held to discuss how these people could help NRI Malayalis in distress due to the pandemic and how their efforts can be co-ordinated through specially designed control rooms. The meeting will turn out to be very effective. As for those who level criticism arising out of jealousy, I have nothing to say," the Chief Minister added.