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'Liberalisation, privatisation; all are wrong policies'

E.K Nayanar, the chief minister of Kerala, has always been a very controversial politician, whether in power or out of power. But he is unruffled by all the controversies that he creates. Once he created a furore in Kerala by saying rape in the US is as common as drinking a cup of tea. In his latest term as CM, he has just issued a startling statement -- when somebody drew his attention to the mass rape of a young girl at Suryanelli, the chief minister asked why there was such a fuss being made since rape happens all the time. Though he has been attacked by all, including the Opposition and women's organisations, Nayanar marches on, unperturbed.

He was in Madras to inaugurate the meeting of an All India Malayalees meet. I had to do a lot of chasing to pin him down for an interview since everybody from Appachan (the maker of India's first 3-D film, My Dear Chotta Chettan,)who took him to Kishkinda, his new amusement park to various associations in Madras were after him.

My appointment in the morning soon after he landed was cancelled when somebody 'hijacked' him. I managed to get an appointment at 8.30 pm, but my bad luck continued. The reception at the Park Sheraton hotel told me he had not arrived when he was very much there in his room, waiting for me. So I had to barge into the dinner party hosted for him by the satellite channel, Asianet.

There he was enjoying all the attention and fun. Though more than a year has passed, he has not forgotten the last interview I had with him. And he has not yet pardoned me for having once asked him about the huge idol of Lord Krishna which stood in front of his house (a Communist's house) and writing about it!

When the interview finally begin, it was well past ten at night. And he almost dozed off while answering questions. Nayanar was not his usual self. After about fifteen minutes or so, he stopped short and said, ''Enough, I am tired. I want to sleep.'' I was disappointed. But there was no way I could make him talk for some more time.

So, here is E K Nayanar, chief minister of Kerala on Malayalees, Communism, liberalisation, power shortages and the success story of West Bengal...

In conversation with Shobha Warrier

You have come here to inauguarate the meeting of All India Malayalees Association. Do you see any difference in the Malayalees who stay in Kerala and the Malayalees who stay outside Kerala?

Yes, there is some difference. There has to be, isn't it so? The Malayalees of Kerala stay there, work there and are aware of the day to day affairs of the state. But you cannot expect those who stay outside Kerala to have knowledge of what is happening within the state. It is also not possible. This difference is in their attitude and approach.

What kind of difference?

In the area of work itself. Here in Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, the Malayalees have regular work and they have some sort of security in their lives. That is not the case in Kerala where around 50,000 people are unemployed. Their condition is pathetic, there is no security in their lives and they dream about going out of Kerala in search of some work. You can see this difference in their attitude also.

It is said that people of Kerala go out and work very hard. But why is it that we have such high rate of unemployment there, that too in a state that is one hundred per cent literate?

Employment opportunities come only if we have industrial and agricultural development. Take the case of Calcutta, Bombay or Madras. Here you have more job opportunities because you have lots of industries here. Not agriculture. But Kerala is very backward as far as industrial development is concerned. Every year the central government is cutting short whatever ... that is due to us. In 1975, the Planning Commission gave us 3% rights, in 1991 it was reduced to one and a half per cent.

The Centre has been neglecting Kerala throughout. Because of that, we cannot have industrial development. If you want industrial development, you need electricity. But we do not have electricity at all. If you take the case of the last 10-12 years, the government (at that time) had not done anything to improve the power situation there.

But your Left Front was in power too during the period.

In fact, the Left Front government had taken some efforts, but the government that came later did not try to continue the process. Who suffers now? The state and the people who stay there. Several industries have closed down as there is no power in the state. The previous government did not even try to help them re-start functioning. After we came to power, we reopened at least one. Had the Left Front been in power continuously, we might have had more industries there and at least quite a few more might have had jobs.

The last time when I met you, that was when you were in the Opposition, you told me that the Kayamkula thermal power project was sanctioned in your time but the successor government did not pursue it. Have you done anything in that direction now?

The Centre has accepted the project now. We only need government clearance. Everything is ready except clearance. Once it is cleared, we are ready to go ahead.

Many environmentalists are protesting against many of your hydro and thermal projects. What do you plan to do?

We do not agree with them at all. The Pooyamkutty project has been shelved because environmentalists interfered. When I met the prime minister, I requested him not to let anyone block this project. I told him that the environmentalists are blocking all our power projects and so what I expect is a political decision. It was Indira Gandhi who promised me about the possibility of having the Pooyamkutty project.

Kerala is an industrially backward state. What according to you are the reasons why industrialists are avoiding Kerala?

Neglect of the Centre.

What about private industries? It appears they are also neglecting the state.

Mainly because of the power shortage. If you ready to give power at a lower rate, all would come rushing. See what is happening to Bengal.


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