A Kerala government delegation led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan left for an eight-day trip to the United States of America and Cuba on Thursday morning.
The delegation, also comprising Speaker A N Shamseer and State Finance Minister K N Balagopal, would be attending various events, including the American Regional Conference of the Loka Kerala Sabha which was marred by controversy after allegations cropped up that money was being charged from expatriates to stand or sit close to Vijayan during the three-day programme.
The opposition Congress had contended that it was "embarrassing" for the state that amounts ranging from USD 25,000 to USD 100,000 was being charged as part of the "offer" to sit or stand close to the Kerala Chief Minister during the Loka Kerala Sabha, a Non-resident Keralites convention. which will be held in New York on June 9, 10 and 11.
The ruling Left in the state and the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA) denied the allegations of fundraising.
The ruling CPI(M) in the state had contended the event organisers only collected money as "sponsorship" and the government had no involvement in it.
Vijayan will be in the US till June 14, on which date he will depart for Havana, the capital city of Cuba, from New York, the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said in a press note.
While in the US, the Kerala CM will inaugurate the American Regional Conference of the Loka Kerala Sabha on June 10 at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square area of New York, the CMO statement said.
Prior to that, on June 9, Vijayan will visit the 9/11 Memorial in New York and thereafter go to see the UN headquarters, it said.
The chief minister will also inaugurate a Business Investment Meet which will be held at Marriot Marquis on June 11, according to his itinerary given in the statement.
During his US visit, Vijayan will also meet Malayali investors in America, prominent Malayali expatriates, IT experts, students and women entrepreneurs, the press note said.
Vijayan will also address the expatriate community at a public meeting in New York's iconic Times Square, it said.
On June 12, he will meet the World Bank's South Asia Regional Vice-President Martin Reiser in Washington DC, it added.
On June 13, the chief minister will personally visit and understand the Maryland waste management systems and on June 14, he will leave New York for Havana, the statement said.
Vijayan will participate in various programmes in Havana on June 15 and 16, meet with various dignitaries and also visit places of historical importance, including the Jose Marti Memorial.