Kerala Health Minister says Union govt denied her permission to go to Kuwait to assist fire victims

Speaking to TNM, Veena George said, “It’s unfortunate that permission was denied.”
Minister Veena George speaking to media
Minister Veena George speaking to media
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Kerala Health Minister Veena George has alleged that her plan to travel to Kuwait to assist in the repatriation of the bodies of 23 Keralites who died in a fire was thwarted by the Ministry of External Affairs. The fire, which broke out in a six-storey building in the Mangaf area, resulted in the deaths of 49 people, including 40 Indians.

The Kerala state cabinet, in a special meeting on June 13, decided to send the minister to Kuwait to coordinate relief efforts, which included arranging treatment for the injured and managing the repatriation of the deceased. However, the trip was cancelled and the minister said her departure was blocked by the Union government.

“We only sought permission to travel to Kuwait so as to extend some relief to the families of the deceased and the injured. But the Union government denied it,” Minister Veena told reporters. 

Veena had reached the Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery and had waited for permission from the Union. She reportedly waited for hours at the airport, hoping for permission from the Ministry of External Affairs. However, the Union government’s sanction did not come even after her check-in time of 8.30 pm.

Speaking to TNM, Veena said, “It’s not technical. We are facing a situation where more than half of the losses are from Kerala and the majority who are under treatment in different hospitals are from Kerala. So, it’s unfortunate that we didn’t receive the consent. Many previous governments have given consent in similar situations. Nothing more to say now.”

Reacting to the incident, Opposition leader VD Satheesan said, “It is unfortunate that the state health minister was denied permission. A representative of the state would have helped to coordinate the relief efforts.”

In contrast, BJP leader Rajeev Chandrasekhar defended the Union government’s decision and said, “Tragedies like Kuwait are not for CPM sightseeing. PM Narendra Modi ji’s govt has on every such tragedy responded fast -  bodies being flown back to Kerala. Kirti Vardhan Singh there on ground. Time is to give solace to families who lost loved ones.”

On the same day, Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh travelled to Kuwait to oversee the assistance to the injured and to expedite the repatriation process. Singh visited Adan Hospital in Kuwait, where 12 Indians are receiving treatment.

Union Minister Suresh Gopi appealed to avoid creating a political controversy over the matter and said, “We are not part of it. Anyone who wants to pop it up as a controversy can keep doing that. There will be no fairness in their thoughts and propaganda, which will fall as a stink on the tears of the bereaved. We are looking after the families.”

The fire, which occurred on June 12 in Kuwait’s Mangaf city, claimed the lives of at least 24 people from Kerala. The building housed around 195 workers, predominantly from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Seven individuals are reported to be in critical condition.

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