As Kerala staggers under the whipping rod of Chikungunya, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has been cornered over its quest for a 'politically correct' low-cost health cover plan.
Incidentally, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had dumped its BPL (below poverty line) health cover pact with ICICI Lombard to seek out a cost-competitive, quality-competitive public sector insurance partner.
When asked about the delay in the health cover plan, state local administration minister Paloli Mohammed Kutty was quoted that it was the Center's delay in revising the estimates in BPL population that was responsible for slowing down the process.
However, the quest for that elusive PSU low-cost health underwriter is still on. Despite the Kerala government's parleys with New India Assurance and United India Insurance, the proposed per BPL family component of the premium is yet to be haggled to below Rs 70.
In the tie-up with ICICI Lombard, a beneficiary family would have had to pay only Rs 33 per premium, while the state government and the local body concerned would have paid the rest (Rs 366). This also facilitated a family to avail a cover of up to Rs 30,000 per year.
In the meantime, state tourism seems geared up for a depressing season, which begins mid -October. Hundreds of visit visas and domestic trips are being cancelled due to the Chikungunya scare. The bad name is especially worrying because Kerala has always being known for its clean environment and high health standards.
Kerala's health indicators are often said to be at par with those of developed countries. The state has the lowest infant mortality rate of 14.1 per cent as against an all-India average of 70.5. The birth rate for Kerala is 15 per cent while for the rest of the country it is 23.8. Similarly, the death rate is 6.4 as against 7.60 for the country. With regards to life expectancy also Kerala leads the rest of the country with 70.9 for males and 76 for women as against 61.8 and 63.5 respectively in the country.
In addition, people are highly educated and well informed. Even the remote villages have public health centers. People have good access to doctors and medicines. Basic infrastructure in smaller towns and villages is much better than in any state in the country.
Yet now, according to sources, more than 100,000 people are down with fever in the south and central districts of the state and the disease is now spreading to the northern districts as well. Alappuzha district of Kerala, a favorite tourist destination with its popular houseboats appears to be worst hit with the maximum Chikungunya deaths. The other tourist destinations affected by the disease are the districts of Kottayam, Ernakulam, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram.
For those who wait for the sound of tourists arriving in order to make a living, it cannot get any gloomier.