Tripura, West Bengal won’t repeat in Kerala: Premachandran
N K Premachandran, MP, Lok Sabha, and former Minister of Water Resources, Kerala, in his unique interview with the Delhi Post scrutinises the political crisis faced by the Left-wing parties in India. While briefing on the unexplored capacities and underlining issues faced by his constituency, Kollam, he also gives an overview of Kerala politics, appreciating the electorate of the state. In this exclusive interview, N K Premachandran also voices his opinion on the Union Budget 2018, especially on the National Health Protection Scheme. The interview is part of #KnowMyConstituency series where Parliamentarians from across the country will shed light on their achievements and talk about their hopes for a better tomorrow.
Delhi Post: You constituency, Kollam, has abundant natural resources to flourish upon. But how do you balance the benefits of massive industries like Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML) and Indian Rare Earths Limited (IRE) against its shortcomings such as water and land pollution?
Premachandran: There are two issues in terms of mining of minerals in the coastal areas- environmental and social conditions of inhabitants living in the vicinity. There are genuine health concerns raised by the people living near the coastal areas such as cancer due to the radiations involved in the mining process. However, scientifically speaking, KMML and IRE are mining the minerals on the coastal areas, and the radioactive elements are separated and removed from these sites. I accept the presence of radioactive elements within the industry, but not at the coastal areas. Another pressing problem is the sea erosion, which is very concerning. Practice of sustainable mining is the only solution to this.
Delhi Post: Do you think Left-Wing is facing a political crisis in India? Will it have a significant impact on Kerala politics as well?
Premachandran: Left -Wing is facing a major ideological and organisational crisis in the country. Primary reason for this crisis is due to their orientation to electoral politics like other bourgeois political parties in India. In order to win the election battle, the policies are being framed in such ways, that the basic characteristics of left ideology are lost. This reflected in Tripura and in West Bengal also.
Now BJP is aiming at Kerala. Likewise situation can repeat and the Kerala political scenario can be changed by wiping out the Left Front politics in Kerala. However, I don’t believe this will happen in Kerala. The electorate is politically educated and is aware of the basic values of democracy and political ideologies pursues by various political parties. But, if the CPI(M) doesn’t change their policies and programs, definitely, it will become a big danger in Kerala also.
Interestingly, even if there are deficiencies in the Left Front government in Kerala, there is another secular common platform led by Congress which is the United Democratic Front. There is a polarised political environment prevailing in Kerala, one is the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by CPI (M) and United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Congress. Hence, there are very remote chances for a third platform to form in Kerala led by BJP, even though they can make some influence and impact in the politics, but it can never be an alternate to CPI(M) and only UDF can take its place.
At present, the government led by Comrade Pinarayi Vijayan is aggressively pursuing worst neo-liberal economic policies. They are speaking in one tone and acting in another and this is well exposed in these two years of CPI (M) government. The manners in which the issues are handled only indicate electoral politics. Last elections, the UDF was dethroned mainly due to the corruption charges faced by KM Mani and currently the Left Front is behind K M Mani for support. Thus, leaving no trace of value based politics.
Delhi Post: How effective do you think NHPS would be in states when there are already existing state-run health care systems?
Premachandran: The Union Budget 2018 saw the announcement of the Indian government’s ambitious National Health Protection Scheme. The financial allocation has not been made for this scheme. This is only as a declaration just to appease the electorate of the country before the 2019 elections. It is also affecting the federal character of this country is also being affected by this program. While framing such a centrally-sponsored health program, the centre is asking the state to fund for it. That is the domain of the state government to select the scheme they would like to implement.
After BJP winning elections, the government has centralised all the power at New Delhi. Every program, in respect to health, education, etc, is planned as a centrally sponsored scheme and the share from the state’s side ever increasing to fund such programs. While the present government is claiming the political benefit out of it, the share has to be borne by state government also. Interestingly, from my experience in Kerala, we already have existing health programs along with insurance schemes which is absolutely free.
Delhi Post: Can you highlight some major developmental scopes in your constituency Kollam?
Premachandran: Infrastructure development is a basic issue which needs to be addressed. The traffic congestion, not only in Kollam, but throughout the state of Kerala consumes time and money. In such a situation, I have identified infrastructure, especially the road infrastructure as a major development project. Similarly, railways are also congested. We cannot bring new rail lines owing to inadequate land. Hence, we need to find an alternate to minimise traffic congestion and facilitate better commutation facilities.
Another important area of development is industrial development. We need more investment to utilise the mineral sources of the country. On the other hand, we also need to address the issues faced by traditional industries urgently otherwise we will lose our cashew industry. In such a situation, we need a package from the state or central government to protect the cashew industry.