Kerala Secretariat Fire: Oppn Alleges Conspiracy to Burn Evidence
The fire broke out at around 4:30 pm at the general administration department of the state secretariat.
A fire broke out at the general administration department (political) of the Kerala Secretariat at around 4:30 pm on Tuesday, 25 August. It was brought under control and fire services were rushed to the spot soon after.
Both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders held a protest outside Kerala Secretariat alleging that fire was an attempt to get rid of evidence related to the gold smuggling case that the Kerala government has been allegedly trying to cover up.
In the wee hours of Wednesday, the police also baton-charged workers of the Youth Congress, who were marching towards the office of Kozhikode Police chief. The injured have been shifted to a hospital.
According to ANI, the Kerala Government has put together a multi-departmental committee to conduct an inquiry into the technical causes that resulted in the fire.
Evidence Related to Gold Scam Being Destroyed, Alleges BJP
State BJP President K Surendran, who was detained by the police, said that the incident is a grave issue and the central agencies probing the gold smuggling case should look into the matter.
He alleged that all possible evidence related to the case is being destroyed at a time when the probe has reached Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
“Files containing details about gold smuggling case, including those sought by NIA and other probe agencies in connection with Minister KT Jaleel were purposefully burnt. BJP leaders including me were arrested when we visited there to bring out the truth.”K. Surendran, BJP President to ANI
BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan claimed that there was no security personnel in the office at the time of the incident.
“We fear that there are elements who sabotaged inquiry (of Kerala Gold Smuggling case). There are very important files in Protocol Office. It doesn't have any security. Had there been security, it wouldn't have happened,” he told news agency ANI.
“We demand a thorough inquiry, the culprit should be booked immediately. We suspect that there is a very well planned move for sabotaging files in the Protocol Office,” he added.
NIA Probing Gold Smuggling Case, Should Investigate Fire Too: Congress
“The fire broke out in the GAD Political section and it’s under this department that all the files pertaining to foreign travel and political clearance are kept. None should forget that the NIA has asked for all the CCTV footage. This is a conspiracy with the knowledge of Vijayan to destroy all the evidence,” said Chennithala.
Local Congress legislator and former state minister VS Sivakumar also reached the area of the incident but was barred from entering the premises.
“A detailed probe should take place. The situation is so grave that even a legislator like me was not allowed entry. This is nothing but a cover-up and everything is being kept under wraps,” said Sivakumar.
We have demanded a high-level inquiry. The government has set up an official level inquiry with some middle-level IAS officers. We don't believe in it because role of even the Chief Secretary is questionable. We suspect his involvement,” Congress MLA VT Balram told ANI.
“It was under his order that the elected representatives, MLAs were detained and restricted from entering Secretariat premises. We demand that NIA, that is probing Gold Smuggling Case, take note of this and inquire into this incident as well,” he said.
What the Authorities Say
Additional Secretary in the GAD, P Honey, said that there were just two staff in the department.
“There were a few COVID positive cases in the department and hence just two people were there. The fire was spotted in a computer and short circuit is the reason for the fire. A few old files in the rack kept near the computer were damaged. The files that were damaged were old ones pertaining to room bookings of guest houses. No important files were destroyed and I say this with full responsibility,” said Honey.
The gold smuggling case was unearthed when PS Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate here, was arrested by the Customs on 5 July when he was facilitating the smuggling of 30 kg gold in diplomatic baggage to Thiruvananthapuram from Dubai.
Things turned murkier when the name of Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the Consulate, and employed with the IT Department, surfaced and more so when her links with M Sivasankar, the state's most powerful official by virtue of the dual posts he held – Principal secretary to Vijayan and also the IT Secretary – came to light.
The IAS officer was subsequently removed from both the posts before being suspended by Vijayan.
(With inputs from IANS and ANI)
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