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Friday, December 8, 2023

Kerala’s ‘rockstar’ health minister K. K. Shailaja terms Goa as a Union Territory in BBC interview

In an interview with UK’s BBC news channel, Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shailaja made a major blooper when she termed the state of Goa as a Union Territory.

The minister, a CPM MLA also known by the popular moniker Shailaja Teacher, was talking about the low number of Covid-19 deaths in the state, when she claimed that out of the 4 patients who had succumbed to the pandemic in Kerala, “one was from the Union Territory of Goa who had come for treatment to Kerala because there are not sufficient hospitals in Union Territory Goa. He died in our hospital…central government is adding that to our account which is not a problem, but he got the virus infection from the Union Territory and came for treatment to Kerala.”

Shailaja was probably trying to refer to a 71-year-old man from Mahe district of Union Territory of Puducherry, who died while being treated at the Pariyaram Medical College in Kannur district of Kerala.

Mahe is one of the 4 separate coastal enclaves of Bharat which were colonised by the French, and merged with Union of Bharat in 1954 to form the Union Territory of Pondicherry (later renamed to Puducherry). UT of Puducherry consists of 4 districts – Puducherry district and Karaikal district are bound by the state of Tamil Nadu, while Yanam district and Mahé district are enclosed by the states of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala respectively.

Mahe is the smallest district in Bharat with an area of just 9 sq. km. and a population of 41k as per Census 2011. It geographically falls within Kerala’s North Malabar region.

Even if we ignore the goof-up of confusing UT of Puducherry with Goa, Shailaja erred in claiming that the “Union Territory does not have sufficient hospitals”. The biggest part of UT of Puducherry is Puducherry district, which has many advanced medical facilities like JIPMER etc. In fact, five people from Puducherry region who attended the Tablighi Jamaat super-spreader event in New Delhi and one of their contacts had undergone treatment at the Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Research Institute in Puducherry.

Kerala’s efforts in containing the current pandemic after recording Bharat’s first Covid-19 case on Jan 30th are indeed applause worthy, as are the efforts of several other states like UP, Odisha, Assam, Karnataka etc.

But what is jarring in the statement of the Kerala Health Minister to a notorious, Bharat-baiting foreign outlet like BBC, more than the gaffe of calling Goa a ‘Union Territory’, is the mindset of shaming the centre and another Union Territory/State.

In a series of tweets, Goa CM Dr. Pramod Sawant has called out KK Shailaja for her factually incorrect statements during her interview with the BBC. He stated –

“The said patient to our knowledge and as confirmed by Kerala IDSP team is not from Goa and has not travelled from here for lack of health facilities. Goa has a dedicated COVID 19 Hospital to deal with the pandemic. 7 patients have fully recovered after receiving treatment from the said hospital and we continue to treat COVID 19 patients from Goa as well as from other states.

Goa has outstanding healthcare facilities with Goa Medical College being one of the oldest and finest medical colleges in Asia. For decades, we have been treating a large number of non Goan patients, especially from our neighbouring states for different ailments.

I also want to inform you Madam that Goa is a full-fledged State and not a Union Territory.”

We hope Kerala Government and Health Minister K.K. Shailaja have the grace to apologize to Goa, Puducherry and the nation.

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