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Kerala(PTI): Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Thursday said his government had not moved away from its responsibility to bring back Keralites, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi cited the evacuation of 29 Indians from Libya including six families from Kerala by his government to reach out to people in the poll-bound state.
Chandy claimed when he along with Non-Resident Kerala Affairs Minister K C Joseph met Central ministers seeking evacuation of Keralites stranded in Libya, “Government of India asked why didn’t they return when they were given an opportunity earlier”.
“Their question is right. Earlier a flight was sent to Libya to evacuate the stranded Indians. Almost all of them were evacuated. Why didn’t they join them?” Chandy said about the questions faced by the Kerala government from the Centre on the issue.
Sushma Swaraj and Oommen Chandy
Rescue turns political: Sushma, Chandy spar over who paid for Libya evacuation
“When the family members of the Keralites stranded in Libya approached me and told me that if flight ticket is given, they would be able to return, I told them that the state government will pay for the ticket,” he said.
When pointed out that some of the family members have said they had to shell out Rs 7 lakh for four flight tickets to Kochi, Chandy said that expense would be borne by the state government.
“The state government will reimburse that money. Due to some technical problem with regard to foreign exchange, to avoid delay in return, they paid their flight ticket,” Chandy said in a meet-the-press programme organised by the Ernakulam Press Club.
Hours after 29 Indians, including five infants in the age group of one and half and two years and a pregnant nurse, were rescued from Libya, the Chief Minister said, “My government has not moved away from any responsibilities”.
Amid tough triangular fight between Congress-led UDF, CPI(M)-led LDF and BJP-led NDA for the crucial May 16 Kerala Assembly polls, Modi had said his government has rescued Indians including Keralites after being stranded in strife-torn Libya.
“I have some good news for you. Six families from Kerala and three Tamil Nadu residents, who were stranded in Libya, will return home safely tomorrow or day after. In total 29 persons have been rescued,” Modi had told a BJP election meeting in nearby Tripunithura.
The BJP-led NDA government has been “very proactive” whenever Indian nationals are in distress, Modi had said referring to the rescue of nurses in libya and of Fr Prem from the clutches of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The government had also succeeded in getting commuted the death sentence of five Tamil Nadu fishermen languishing in Sri Lankan prison. “They have been saved and they are happily living with their families,” he had said, adding they met him during his election rally yesterday in Tamil Nadu.