By turning down gun salute, Chandy’s kin spark debate on need for such traditions
Senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran told TNIE that Chandy should be lauded for taking such a noble decision.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The decision of Oommen Chandy’s family not to conduct his funeral with state honours, in keeping with the late leader’s wish, has sparked a debate on the need for such traditions.
While several politicians and senior bureaucrats believe the entire concept of state honours and gun salute should be done away with, some feel it should be a personal choice.
Veteran CPM leader G Sudhakaran, former chief secretaries Jiji Thomson and V P Joy opined such practices should go, while senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran said an individual should take a call on whether he/she deserves state honours — as was done by Chandy.
The former chief minister had, as his wish, said he did not want a funeral with state honours.
In such funerals, a gun salute is customary. And depending on who the deceased is, the number of blanks fired range from three to 21.
When Chandy passed away, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had been keen on giving him a farewell with full state honours.
However, Chandy’s wife Mariamma Oommen apprised the government of the late leader’s wish for a religious funeral.
Though Chief Secretary V Venu urged the family to reconsider the decision, Mariamma had politely declined.
‘Several undeserving people had availed of privileges’
Joy told TNIE that this was the first time a former CM’s family made the request. “I am against the concept of full state honours. The government recently decided against declaring holidays to associated departments when a minister dies. I think perceptions are changing with each passing decade,” he said.
Former state police chief Jacob Punnoose said the number of blanks fired during a gun salute varies depending on rank. “At the top is the 21-gun salute, followed by 14, seven and three,” he said.
Sudhakaran told TNIE that Chandy should be lauded for taking such a noble decision. “When I was part of the V S Achuthanandan cabinet, family members of many dignitaries had requested state honours and gun salute. I believe the call has to be taken by the individual,” he said. Senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran recalled that he did not have a gunman during his stints as health minister and even while he was Speaker.
“Later, when I started receiving threat calls following liquor ban, veteran leader A K Antony insisted I have a gunman during my tenure as KPCC president. A person should take a call on whether he/she should be given full state honours and gun salute,” said Sudheeran.
Jiji Thomson was highly critical of the practice, as he felt several undeserving people had availed the privileges. “Look at the people whose funerals were held with state honours and gun salute in the past six months. The LDF government has been giving away the privileges to all without rhyme or reason. What’s the criterion behind it? Just like Padma awards, which have become political nominations, state honours and gun salutes have lost value. The exchequer becomes poorer by a few lakhs after every such ceremony,” he told TNIE.