Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his team left for an eight-day long trip to the United States of America (USA) and Cuba on Thursday morning amid vociferous criticism from Opposition parties.
Chief Minister Vijayan boarded an Emirates flight from Thiruvananthapuram airport at 4.30 am on Thursday. Finance Minister KN Balagopal and Speaker AN Shamsheer have accompanied the Chief Minister.
Chief Minister Vijayan will kick-start his US trip from June 9 by paying a visit to the 9/11 memorial in New York, which will be followed by a visit to the United Nations headquarters on the same day.
He will inaugurate the American Regional Conference of the Loka Kerala Sabha on June 10 at the Marriott Marquis in Time Square. Speaker AN Shamseer will preside over the conference which will be attended by Finance Minister KN Balagopal, prominent members of Loka Kerala Sabha, Chief Secretary VP Joy and other senior officials.
Chief Minister Vijayan will inaugurate a business investment meet at Marriott Marquis on 11 June where he will meet with Keralite investors, IT experts, students and women entrepreneurs living in the US.
The Chief Minister will address the expatriate community at New York Times Square on June 11 evening. On 12 June, Chief Minister Vijayan will meet Martin Raiser, Vice-President, South Asia Region, World Bank, in Washington DC. He will visit the Maryland waste management systems on 13 June. The CM will leave New York for Havana on 14 June. He will attend various programmes in Havana on 15 and 16 June, including meetings with various dignitaries.
The Opposition parties have slammed the Chief Minister’s decision to visit foreign countries while the state is facing an acute financial crisis. They said the foreign tour of the Chief Minister and his team will add to the burden of the cash-strapped Kerala coffers. Senior Congress leader and Opposition leader in Kerala Assembly VD Satheeshan said that the CM’s foreign tours had yielded no tangible benefits for the state.
He said the Chief Minister led a Cabinet delegation to Europe ostensibly to study flood mitigation and primary school education, with no reciprocal benefit for the state. He said the government had made a mockery of the Kerala Legislative Assembly, an elected law-making body, by creating a parallel assembly of expatriates.
The senior Congress leader also accused the government of courting wealthy donors to sponsor the New York event. He said the government had transformed the event into an exclusive fundraiser wherein only wealthy expatriates had an entry. BJP state president K Surendran said the Chief Minister and his team had gone on a junket when the government was facing a financial crisis.
“The government had splurged public funds on hosting wealthy expatriates in Kerala and abroad. But the extravagant biennial conclaves have brought no investment to Kerala,” Surendran said
Stating that farmers are on the verge of suicide, Surendran said the government had rendered the Kerala Agriculture Debt Commission a paper organisation. “Ultimately, the taxpayer would have to pick the tab for the Chief Minister and his team’s foreign tours and other extravagances,” Surendran said.
The collection of funds in the USA for the purpose of the regional conference of the Lok Kerala Sabha sparked a controversy The conference is mired in controversy with the organisers decided to collect amounts ranging from USD 25,000 to USD 100,000 from US-based Keralite by offering them a chance to sit or stand close to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during the regional meeting of the organisation.
The organisers reportedly decided to collect amounts ranging from USD 25,000 to USD 100,000 from US-based Keralite by offering them a chance to sit or stand close to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during the regional meeting of the organisation to be held from June 9 to 11.