‘Oppn. jumped into conclusions even before probe began’
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday said no crucial files were lost in the fire in a section of the Secretariat on Tuesday.
“No files were lost. A few unimportant records were damaged partially,” he said. The police were investigating whether the fire was an accident or an act of arson as alleged by the Opposition. The government would soon have a full inventory of the damaged files.
A technical committee comprising experts from various departments would look into the fire safety of the Secretariat building. It would suggest measures to prevent such incidents in the future, he said.
Mr. Vijayan said the fire had resulted in a grave security lapse at the Secretariat. Initially, BJP workers trespassed on the premises. Soon, Congress workers followed suit. The government has taken a severe view of the security failure. It has ordered the Additional Chief Secretary, Home, T.K. Jose, to investigate the security failure and fix responsibility.
(A senior officer said the Cabinet had expressed deep concern the police and security officers at the Secretariat had not protected Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta “for close to 30 minutes” when he ventured out of the office to persuade protesters to leave the premises.)
Mr. Vijayan accused the Congress and the BJP of having jumped the gun. They concluded that the fire was an act of sabotage without a shred of empirical evidence. The Opposition parties had spread extreme conspiracy theories prematurely. Ideally, the Opposition should have waited for the investigations to conclude.
Charge against Oppn.
Mr. Vijayan also slammed the Opposition parties for having unleashed violence in the State based on extreme intrigue. The Congress and the BJP propagated unfounded theories about the Secretariat fire.
The parties brazenly violated the High Court ban on demonstrations during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
The demonstrations had drastically escalated the health risk faced by the community. The anti-government agitators had exposed themselves, their families and neighbours to the risk of the contagion significantly, he added.
Mr. Vijayan said the demonstrations could become super-spreader events. He hoped the Congress and BJP would behave with a modicum of responsibility in the future given the worsening pandemic situation.
LIFE Mission row
He reiterated that the government had no role in the kickback scandal that had enveloped the LIFE Mission project in Wadakkanchery in Thrissur. The UAE Red Crescent had agreed to build and hand over 140 dwellings to the Mission. The State had no role in it.
Mr. Vijayan said the prior permission of the Centre was not required to receive such assistance from recognised international charities. “The Centre should be kept in the loop, and the State has done it,” he said.
When pressed that his media advisor John Brittas had propounded the kickback theory, Mr. Vijayan said he could not respond to media reports. “My office limits my response until I have proof on hand. Several agencies are looking into the allegations,” he said.