Kuwait fire tragedy: Kerala CM, Congress slam Centre denying permission to Minister’s travel; Governor, Suresh Gopi against it

Union Minister of State for Tourism and Petroleum Suresh Gopi said there was no controversy in the matter.


Published Jun 14, 2024 | 5:54 PM Updated Jun 14, 2024 | 5:54 PM

Mortal remains of the deceased in Kuwait fire

The Centre’s denial of permission to Kerala Health Minister Veena George to travel to Kuwait to coordinate relief efforts was criticised by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Congress-led opposition on Friday, 14 June.

Responding to it, state Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and Union Minister Suresh Gopi backed the Centre’s decision.

Speaking about it, Khan said “When the bodies of the deceased were being brought on Friday, what would George have achieved by going there on Thursday? So, if you go yesterday and then come back again today, what will be the actual work which will be done there? Already the Government of India Ministers were in Kuwait and they were bringing the bodies today.”

He said that there was only a few hours between yesterday and today and that the Health Minister couldn’t have achieved anything in Kuwait. “These things should not be unnecessarily pursued,” he said.

Related: A dad awaiting child’s first birthday, a young man on his first job abroad: Kuwait fire burns all down

No controversy: Suresh Gopi

Sharing a similar view, Union Minister of State for Tourism and Petroleum Suresh Gopi said there was “no controversy” in the matter.

“People who are at the helm of affairs when it comes to diplomatic transactions and connections are into it. Do not be worried. They are also capable. We have our own contingent working there to help the injured Indians. It is the duty of the government of India,” Gopi said.

On the other hand, CM Vijayan was of the view that it was a “wrong stand” on the part of the Centre. “The Minister had come here (Kochi), but could not travel due to a lack of political clearance. I am not raising it as a serious issue presently. It can be discussed later,” he said.

The opposition Congress too was of the same view as the CM. Leader of Opposition in the state assembly VD Satheesan said it was “unfortunate” that Veena was not allowed to travel to Kuwait.

“A representative of the state government would have helped to better coordinate the relief efforts. The Central government ought to have immediately given clearance to the state health minister. It was a wrong message from the Centre’s side,” he said, criticising the Union government’s decision.

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Veena George had said on the night of the tragedy, “What we just sought from the Central government was the permission to travel to Kuwait to stand with our people affected by the tragedy and coordinate activities there. That permission is denied.”

The state government had decided to send George to Kuwait to help with the relief efforts, including treatment for the injured and the repatriation of the deceased. George reportedly waited for hours at the airport, hoping for permission from the Ministry of External Affairs.

Officials had said on 13 June that 49 people were killed in the fire in the Al-Mangaf building on 12 June and 45 of them were Indians; the remaining were Pakistani, Filipino, Egyptian and Nepali nationals. The building in southern Kuwait’s Mangaf area housed around 195 migrant workers.

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