Chennai, Dec 5: Taking strong exception to film star Kamal Haasan's reported criticism of AIADMK's flood relief activities, Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O Panneerselvam on Saturday charged the actor of becoming a ‘puppet' of those who tried to gain political mileage in such situations.
In a strongly-worded statement, Panneerselvam, also explained to the actor that the government's spending in social sectors and disaster management and advised him to go through the budget "by allocating time in between his movie shootings."
Panneerselvam's retort comes in the wake of the actor's reported criticism to a section of media, where he had purportedly said the "system has collapsed" and that he was making donations since the government had asked him and reportedly expressed his displeasure over it.
"In an extraordinary situation where Chennai had received over 40 cm of rainfall in a single day resulting in flooding, instead of being supportive of the Amma (Jayalalithaa) government, he has made wrong statement which is above his qualification," Panneerselvam said.
The actor was ‘confused' and had ‘blabbered' unaware of the ground reality, he said. Explaining government's relief measures, he said though the State was returning to normalcy after rains in earlier part of November, it once again struggled as it received rain in excess of 40 cm last week, a record after 1918.
"In a film produced by him, he may set right a natural disaster in just a scene or a song. But reality is different. Normalcy can be restored only with proper planning and over a period of time which Amma is doing expeditiously," Panneerselvam said.
"If he wants to know about natural disaster, he should once again watch his movie Anbe Sivam," he said. The movie, also starring R. Madhavan, deals with the trials and tribulations of the two protagonists stuck in a deluge.
Over 40,000 government staff were involved in flood relief; 300 boats employed while some 12 lakh affected persons had been rescued and lodged in camps. So far, 55 lakh food packets have been distributed and over 23,000 medical camps held, he said.
"In such a situation, saying that the entire system has collapsed, is not only contrary to facts, but also amounts to insulting the people of Tamil Nadu," he said.
He also lambasted the actor for questioning what happened to the taxpayer's money as government solicited contributions.
"His statement shows that he has become a puppet of people who eye political mileage in such a situation," he said.
The Minister said Haasan should clarify if he had ‘sold himself out' to any ‘evil force' which aims at creating an illusion that tax payers' money was ‘misappropriated' by the government, and thus malign its reputation among people. "Even the Rs. 679 crore tax payers' money allotted for disaster mitigation in the budget for year 2015-16 is being spent now," he said, adding that the actor need not have any doubt about where the money was going and insisted that Jayalalithaa was keen to ensure taxes were not wasted.
Referring to the actor's outburst at the height of the Vishwaroopam controversy where he threatened to leave the country in the face of strong protests from Muslim bodies, the Minister sought to remind him that it was Jayalalithaa who helped in solving the stand-off.
"But the actor had forgotten to thank Jayalalithaa then and has made such remarks now," he said. Further, the government had not sought any contribution from him, but only from the Centre even as many good-hearted individuals and state governments where making voluntary donations considering it a noble deed, he said. "The Tamil tradition is to not beg from anyone and turn down charity," he said.
In fact, Telugu actor Allu Arjun, had committed to providing Rs. 25 lakh for the city, Panneerselvam said.
On the actor's comment that ‘ruling party' was spending Rs. 4,000 crore on corporate projects and why it could not be divided among 120 crore people of India, Panneerselvam wondered if the question was directed at the Centre. "Don't know why he is asking that question now. Probably he is angry that (Centre) has not waived the service tax levied on cinema industry," he remarked sarcastically.
"We cannot tolerate Kamal Haasan's blabbering just because he is a big actor or makes big fil People of Tamil Nadu who have complete faith in the Chief Minister will never believe or accept them," he said.