The Kochi Corporation council meeting witnessed turbulent scenes over the non-allocation of funds in the budget for the proposed cancer centre in Kochi, on Friday. A faction of the Congress councillors, along with the opposition councillors staged protests and walked out of the council meeting, as Mayor Tony Chammany was against marking the protest.
Councillors cutting across party colours said that the state government had neglected the demand of a cancer centre in Kochi and that sufficient funds were not allotted. The demand to unanimously mark their protest against the government’s decision came up as soon as the council began. However, when the Mayor, in his reply speech, brushed aside such a demand, the councillors turned against the decision.
Raising the topic, Congress councillor Leno Jacob demanded the Corporation to write to the Finance Minister to mark the council’s collective protest. “The cancer centre is a long-pending demand of Kochiites. Though the project has been approved by the state government, the Finance Minister has not allocated any fund for the proposed cancer centre in the budget. The corporation should strongly mark its protest against this,” he said.
In his reply, Mayor Tony Chammany said that the government has allocated `5 crore and has appointed a special officer to prepare the DPR and master plan for the cancer centre. “The government has, in principle, approved an international cancer centre and research institute in Kochi. Funds have been allocated for its preparatory work. If additional funds are required, it’s just a matter of Cabinet decision which we can always request. Therefore, it’s meaningless to protest,” said the Mayor.
Displaying a rare unanimity, both members of the Congress ‘I’ faction and the opposition said that the Mayor’s reply was unsatisfactory.
Senior Congress ‘I’ councillor and Corporation Development Standing Committee chairman T J Vinod Kumar said that the Mayor’s stand would only help “the state government to continue tricking Kochiites.” “Though the city contributes about 40 per cent to the government coffers, it has not got a proportionate allocation in the budget. We have to take a strong stand against it,” he said. The ‘I’ group demanded to stop the proceedings of the house for few minutes as a mark of protest and urged the Mayor to meet Finance Minister personally to convey the council’s displeasure about the budget allocation.
CPM councillor and opposition leader of the house K J Jacob called upon the councillors to rise above party colours and protest against Finance Minister K M Mani’s stand. Councillor K Anil Kumar criticised the ruling council’s inability to rope in more funds for the city. Councillors K N Sunil Kumar, C I Shakeer, and Premkumar also marked their protest speaking in the council meeting. The meeting came to an abrupt end as both ‘I’ group councillors and opposition walked out in protest against the Mayor’s stand.