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From hospital wards to Parliament

May 15, 2004 17:58 IST

For Dr Pookunhi Koya, the doctor-turned politician who scored an upset win over former deputy Lok Sabha speaker P M Sayeed in Lakshadweep, it has been a one giant leap from dusty hospital wards in a remote island constituency to the nation's driving force, the Parliament.

Dr Koya, who contested as a Janata Dal (United) candidate, took voluntary retirement from government service in January before plunging into politics. He told reporters in Kochi that the islands lacked basic medical facilities and had practically no specialists in any discipline.

The islands have two medical hospitals, but no gynaecologists have been posted there since 1997. Dr Koya said he helped women deliver babies. In case of complications, these women would be rushed to Kochi in Kerala in helicopters. Unfortunately, children who are not born in the islands lose their Scheduled Tribe status, he said.

Koya, who defeated Sayeed by 71 votes, said the younger generation and the educated had thrown their lot with him, persuading him to contest. The fact that he was a medical practitioner helped as he knew most of the 38,000 voters in the islands by name, said the soft-spoken Koya.

"They used to come to me for common cold, fever and even to deliver babies. I have seen the gratitude in the eyes of mothers when I tell them they have a healthy child," he said.

According to Koya, "Unrealistic plans are made from air-conditioned rooms in Delhi for Lakshadweep without taking the ground realities into consideration."

There are hardly any forests in Lakshadweep but a forest director had been recently appointed, he said.

Blaming Sayeed for not doing much for the islanders despite being an MP since 1967, he said the islands lacked even basic facilities. The ships ferrying passengers were in bad shape and the inter-island transport facilities were inadequate.

"Lakshadweep is a beautiful place for a short stay. But if one decides to extend his stay, he would never feel like returning [to the islands]," Koya said, describing the union territory as a "place with lot of problems."

The coastal regulation zone norms cannot be strictly implemented in the narrow islands, he said, adding there was need to alter it suitably. Ensuring that proper medical facilities are made available to the islanders and that children who are born on the island do not lose their ST status are his priorities, he said.

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