Kerala CM in a spot over helicopter ride

Vijayan’s office forced to cancel the original order to spend the hire charges of Rs800,000 from the cyclone disaster response fund

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has triggered a controversy by taking a private helicopter ride, for which the payment was approved from the State Disaster Response Fund.

Vijayan had used the helicopter to rush from Thrissur, where he had gone for a meeting of the Communist Party of India Marxist, to the state capital.

Following a raging controversy in the media, the chief minister’s office was forced to cancel the original order to spend the hire charges of Rs800,000 (Dh46,100) from the disaster response fund, and clarify that the general administration department would foot the bill.

Vijayan had rushed from Thrissur to the state capital last month to attend a cabinet meeting that he chaired, and also to meet a federal team that was in the capital to assess the damage caused by the Ockhi cyclone in late November.

Former chief minister Oommen Chandy said Vijayan ought to apologise to the people of the state for footing his helicopter ride from the funds meant for the cyclone disaster relief fund. “The Ockhi disaster fund being misused is a matter of grave concern”, Chandy said.

Initially, the hire charges for the helicopter were sanctioned to be paid from the disaster response fund, and the district collector was allowed to release the amount. That order is now being cancelled.

The party is now pondering ways to extricate itself from the controversy, and local media reported the CPM may decide to pay the money from the party funds.

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