Thiruvananthapuram, Members of the Congress-led opposition in Kerala Tuesday remained glued to their seats in the assembly even after it was adjourned - to protest against a raging fever that has killed 76 people.
"We are prepared to sit through the entire proceedings for the day. Our only demand is that the government should be prepared for a discussion on this alarming situation," pleaded former chief minister Oommen Chandy, now leader of the United Democratic Front (UDF).
When Speaker K. Radhakrishnan disallowed the opposition from speaking on the issue, opposition members trooped towards his chamber shouting slogans against the government.
The speaker then adjourned the house for the day. But the UDF members decided to remain in the legislature till its normal closure time. Earlier, Health Minister P.K. Sreemathi said the chikungunya-related fever plaguing Kerala had been worse during the Congress regime until 2006.
"In 2003, 1.85 million people were down with (chikungunya) fever, 1.41 million in 2004, 1.8 million in 2005 and 236,804 in 2006. This year, till now, only 1.06 million people have been affected by the fever. So by all means we have done a better job in tackling the fever," Sreemathi said.
She said that there had been 76 deaths in the two most affected districts of Kottayam and Pathanamthitta. Chandy, however, hit out at the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and said the government had done nothing to get funds from New Delhi to tackle the spread of the disease that can prove fatal without timely treatment.
"This scheme was floated in November 2005 during our tenure. Last year, a central government report said that of the states listed for the scheme, Kerala was the worst in terms of implementation," said Chandy.
"This is indeed a shame and of the Rs.1.77 billion allotted, only Rs.250 million was availed. But when it was allocated here it went for other schemes. This is a serious lapse," he added.
Chandy also criticised the government for not taking any action to appoint medical professionals in the health department. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan reiterated that there was no emergency situation in the state and the spread of the mosquito-borne fever has come down dramatically and that things were under control.