Fire tragedy: Centre shoots down Kerala health minister Veena George's plan to visit Kuwait

Earlier, Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh reached Kuwait to oversee assistance to the injured Indians and ensure early repatriation of the mortal remains of those killed.
Kerala Health Minister Veena George
Kerala Health Minister Veena George (File photo | B P Deepu)

KOCHI: In what could escalate into another tussle between the Centre and the state, Kerala health minister Veena George's plan to travel to Kuwait on Thursday night to coordinate the repatriation of the bodies of 23 Malayalees, who died in the devastating fire at a six-storey building in the Magnaf area, was shot down by the Ministry of External Affairs.

"It's saddening that 40 out of the 49 deceased in the fire are Indians. Out of this, 23 are from Kerala. At this moment, it was the state government's decision to send a minister to coordinate the efforts by travelling to Kuwait. However, despite our request, the permission to travel was not granted," Veena told reporters outside the Kochi airport.

She had reached the Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery and waited for permission from the Centre. However, the central government's sanction did not come even after her check-in time at 8.30 pm.

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"The Chief Secretary was constantly in touch with the External Affairs Ministry till the last minute. But there was no positive response," said Veena.

Earlier in the day, Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh reached Kuwait to oversee assistance to the injured Indians and ensure early repatriation of the mortal remains of those killed. Singh also visited Adan hospital in Kuwait where 12 Indians are being treated.

According to Veena, the mortal remains of the Malayalees will arrive at Kochi airport on Friday at 8.30 am. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other ministers from Kerala will pay homage at the airport.

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