Congress defends Antony over defence aircraft
Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress on Monday criticised Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan for blaming Defence Minister AK Antony for not arranging a defence aircraft to airlift the bodies of those killed in the Thekkady boat tragedy.
Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy said Antony had done "everything humanely possible to help".
He was responding to a statement by Achuthanandan who said that Antony's "cold response to their demand should be viewed seriously". The boat capsize in Thekkady lake in the Periyar wildlife sanctuary Wednesday evening left 45 dead.
"Achuthanandan first spoke to Antony on Thursday evening, a day after the tragedy. A fax message was send at 5.14 p.m. that day by Achuthanandan seeking help. Immediately Antony spoke to the cabinet and civil aviation secretary and came back with three suggestions," said Chandy.
The first was that he will send a defence aircraft, but since that was stationed in Chandigarh it would take more than eight hours to reach Kochi.
"The second was that he can arrange a special Air India flight from Chennai and the third was that arrangements would be made with Air India to carry the bodies from Kochi on Friday. Despite this, Achuthanandan blamed Antony for not coming to help," said Chandy.
He also said the efforts of Indian Naval divers who reached the spot and spent three days in search operations should be commended.
Chandy said they would prefer a probe by a committee of experts headed by a judicial officer rather than a judicial inquiry.
"The government has said it would announce a judicial probe. A committee probe would be faster and it would find the people responsible for the tragedy. Now the boat driver has been arrested, but is he the only one who is responsible for this," asked Chandy.
The state government made arrangements with Kingfisher airlines to ferry the bodies from Kochi to different destinations.