Fever leads to opposition walk out in Kerala assembly

Thiruvananthapuram, June 11 (IANS) Acrimonious scenes were witnessed in the Kerala assembly Tuesday over outbreak of a fever that has claimed 140 lives and affected almost a million people in the state. Unsatisfied by the government response, the opposition members walked out of the house.

When Elamaram Kareem of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) sought to move an adjournment motion on the issue, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the need of the hour was not discussion but action.

"I request all the legislators to find out from their constituencies whether the state-run health centres have the required sanctioned staff strength, stock of medicines and laboratory equipment. By evening, we are having a department-level meeting, and before that if the requirement is given we will see that all the shortfalls are made up," Chandy said.

State Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar told the assembly that as per official statistics, from January-June 10 this year, 140 people have died and more than 9.94 lakh people have been affected with fever.

"All steps that are humanly possible are being taken to tackle the fever outbreak," Sivakumar said.

"The health department functions on the staff strength. Since we came into power (in 2011), we have recruited 975 doctors under the National Rural Health Scheme and another 860 through the state public service commission. Also, 916 nurses have been freshly recruited," said Sivakumar.

He said the latest official figures were accurate as figures from the private hospitals have also been included.

However, Kareem alleged that the Congress party-led government was doing nothing for the affected people.

"Merely holding meetings won't suffice. The government should have worked to contain the outbreak ahead of the monsoon. The local bodies are yet to receive the sanctioned amount for preventive work," the Marxist said.

Leader of opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, who preceded Chandy as chief minister, demanded that compensation be given to the next of kin of those who died due to the fever.

"Are you prepared to provide a compensation to the families of the dead? It happened due to your ineffectiveness," Achuthanandan alleged.

To this, Chandy replied: "Yes, I will pay the compensation if anyone can point out that at any point in the five-year term of Achuthanandan (2006-11), the state government paid compensation to anyone who died of fever."

Angered by the reply, Achuthanandan led the entire opposition out of the house.

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