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State government to challenge EC's decision on schemes

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State government to challenge ECs decision on schemes
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Thiruvananthapuram: With Election Commission questioning its decision on free rice distribution to BPL families and supply of drinking water in poll-bound Kerala, the state government Monday said it would not hesitate to take legal recourse if permission was denied for the schemes.

Speaking to reporters here, after a special cabinet meeting discussed the issue, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said Chief Secretary P K Mohanty would write a letter to the Election Commission seeking permission for the schemes.

The cabinet discussed the issue of state Chief Electoral Officer E K Majhi referring the matter to a committee headed by the state Chief Secretary to examine whether the move is violative of the model code of conduct in force since March 4.

"The cabinet decided to take legal recourse, if EC refuses to give permission," Chandy said.

The Chief Secretary would also refer to court orders which have stated that EC cannot interfere on decisions taken prior to the date of election announcement, he said, adding, government had received legal advice on this matter.

He said the free rice distribution scheme was announced in the state budget for 2016-17 in February. "Necessary orders for the same had been issued before the poll announcement and funds for the scheme has also been allotted," he said.

Referring to supply of drinking water by lorries in areas hit by shortage, he said the decision was taken and funds allotted before the poll announcement.

"The government will think of steps, including legal action, if permission is not granted for the supply of drinking water... a cabinet meeting to be held tomorrow will take a decision," he said.

Chandy said the EC had stated that drinking water can be supplied in areas declared as drought-hit. But it would not be possible to declare parts of state as drought-hit going by the guidelines and norms, even though these areas were facing severe drinking water shortage.

"The government cannot in any way justify the move to deny drinking water to people in summer months," Chandy said.

The Chief Secretary had gone to Delhi and explained the matter to Chief Election Commissioner, Chandy said, adding, a detailed letter was also sent to the EC on the matter.

"But no decision has been taken on it," he said.

The government fully accepted the core of the model code of conduct. "That is why to avoid any complaints, drinking water supply was being carried out by officials and people's representatives have been kept away from it," he said.

Besides this, the EC had also restricted the supply of free ration materials for workers who had lost jobs due to closure of cashew factories, he said.

The comprehensive health insurance scheme, distribution of financial assistance under Karuniya scheme and allocation of funds from CM's Relief Fund have also been affected due to Election Commission's decision, Chandy said.

Hitting out at the government's reaction to the issue, CPI(M) politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan said it exposed UDF regime's "intolerance" toward the Election Commission.

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