While agreeing to participate in Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s call to Malayalis everywhere to contribute one month’s salary towards flood relief, Congress MLA VT Balram also brought up a few questions. In a rather long Facebook post addressed to the CM, Balram asks these questions, even as he says that this might earn him labels such as ‘Sanghi’, because anyone questioning the CM is treated that way on social media.
“Those who criticise or ask questions are immediately branded traitors of the country and the state. Those who don’t give you 10 on 10 marks are in the crosshairs,” Balram writes.
The suggestion of contributing a month’s salary had originally come from John Samuel, an expert on international affairs. It was taken up as a request by the CM in an Asianet discussion, Balram notes. “As a citizen and as a people’s representative, I accept it. But there are some doubts and practical problems here,” he writes.
The CM has not made it clear how many crores of rupees should be collected from how many families, and how much from each family. Out of the 1.12 crore families, at least 80 lakh families should take up this ‘salary challenge’ to generate a good amount, as John Samuel mentioned. But Balram points out that at least 40% of the people have the old BPL ration card and it is cruel to ask money from those below the poverty line. It may also not be possible for the 10 lakh families affected by the floods to contribute.
Balram then calculates the amount that can be collected from the remaining families, putting Rs 20,000 as an average from each. “You will get Rs 8,000 crore. How much can you rebuild with this amount? We need at least Rs 50,000 to 75,000 crore for that. So how will you collect the rest? You have already taken a loan of Rs 50,000 crore through KIIFB for developmental projects. You can take Rs 10,000 crore more and avoid this scheme of collecting from the public, right?” he asks.
Balram repeats that he is ready to give the amount the CM has suggested, but there are a few supporters of the CM presenting themselves as Kerala lovers, who label anyone asking for clarity as ‘Sanghis’.
“You can’t use ‘but’ anymore. That ‘but’ is a citizen’s concern. This collection from the public will be a success only if every Malayali is sure that the amount they contribute reaches the right place.”
Balram then recommends the idea proposed by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala – of starting a new fund for rebuilding Kerala with clear rules, which will not have any scope of political influence, unlike the CMDRF (Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund), which is directly under the Chief Minister. Balram also advices the CM to avoid unnecessary expenses within the party, citing many examples.
The MLA then goes on to take a sarcastic tone where he appears to praise the CM for his benevolent attitude towards the Centre, which has not been generous with relief funds. “The PM had announced a Rs 1,25,000 crore package for Bihar! When Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are all clamouring for huge packages, the Kerala government should also be able to get what it deserves, right?” he asks.
It is a good thing that it is a CPM leader that has now come up with this idea of collecting funds from the public, Balram continues with the sarcasm. “For if it was someone like Oommen Chandy or another Congress leader making such a proposal, your party leaders would have come out with a lot of criticism such as ‘Development should not be done by begging’.”
Balram then ends his note declaring his support and wishing the CM all success.