Pinarayi- Sprinklr
Pinarayi- Sprinklr
In My View

Sprinkling disaster in pandemic times?

P.C. Punnen

P.C. Punnen

It's very sad to notice that Kerala is facing a very serious situation, something we could not think about since India’s Independence or the formation of the State of Kerala. Economics and politics are its fulcrum, guided or controlled by religious doctrines and aided by our principled lives; varying from person to person.

That said let us look at matters which will have a cascading effect on our lives. In politics, we don't have much of a choice. Birds of the same feather, we are doomed to choose from. The joke is we are no better or perhaps worse than them. And the game continues, and will continue till eternity.

Kerala is facing a serious one. That is to choose between two, basically the same despite their assertions - between the Congress and the Communists. And we as cleverer folks used to vote for the Congress this time and for the Marxists the next time. Political parties used to form alliances based only on their survival instincts. Perhaps that explains why Thomas Issac, our Finance Minister, announced Rs 5 crore to build a memorial for his predecessor KM Mani whom the present rulers, when they were in Opposition, condemned as the most corrupt person Kerala has seen.

Viewed thus, Kerala has created history in fighting the corona virus which has changed the world like the plague in 1918-19. It has been praised by foreign and Indian media. I would think all Keralites cutting across politics and religion, should be praised for this. At the same time, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Shailaja Teacher, who is in charge of the Health Ministry, deserve praise. So do the doctors and nurses as also our policemen, and then, we Keralites too.

Given this background, the CPM appears to have been caught on the wrong foot and riding on the wave of its fight against corona, a victory in the next elections was certain. But unfortunately, the controversy over sharing of data through a private firm appears to have taken away a bit of all that sheen, all because of Pinarayi.

Why Pinarayi chose an American company, an unheard of one called Sprinklr for handling health data remains unexplained. Pinarayi's argument that it was chosen because of its Indian origin, to say the least, doesn't hold. His other argument, in response to that of Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala that the company has been charged with cheating and also has to face the charge leveled by the company's former activist, is very funny. He claimed well-known companies like Google and Microsoft too are facing or have faced similar charges!

Another defence is that Kerala was facing a serious crisis and so the normal procedure like getting the contract vetted by senior government employees and approved by the Cabinet didn't happen. This appears to be the funniest one and may not hold in a State like Kerala.

There is a heated discussion in the media too. Suffice it to say the participants, especially those supporting Pinarayi, seem to belittle listeners. The IAS officers, who passed the contract, appeared to have little choice as defying Pinarayi is near impossible. There have been very few bureaucrats who have taken a firm stand on controversial issues.

Sprinklr has data of 1.75 lakh people in the State and is worth Rs 200 crore, say media reports. Therefore, this deal could turn out to be not just an act of corruption but also a criminal one, Chennithala has said. This serious charge deserves a probe, for it casts aspersions on Pinarayi, who also holds the IT portfolio. It doesn't matter where the company’s server is. What is vital is possession of vital facts which will yield the company lots of money.

It is time Pinarayi issued a statement to clarify things and not make matters worse. By not doing so, he neither saves himself nor the party.

But other charges that Chennithala levelled and Pinarayi defended deserve little mention. Chennitala has been levelling all sorts of charges which have been rightly ignored by the CPM. It also raises questions about the timing of raising such charges when the State as a whole is unitedly fighting a pandemic.

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The facts and views in the article are those of the writer.

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