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Kerala Floods 2019: Death Toll Rises to 76, Fake News Target Relief Fund

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Volunteers who are involved in the relief and rescue operations say that the source of the fake messages are right-wing groups.
Kerala Floods

Image Courtesy: The Hindu

Even as the the heavy rains in Kerala subdued on Monday, the relief and rescue operations are underway. The death toll following the floods and landslides rose to 76, while the number of missing people stands at 61. Highest number of causalities have been reported from Malappuram district, with 23 people dead, and Wayanad district, with 12 dead, where a series of landslides and landslips have occurred.

In Malappuram’s Kavalappara, in Nilambur region, where 64 had gone missing after a massive landslide, rescue operations continue. Though the landslide had occurred on August 8 late evening, the place remained inaccessible for the very next day because of damaged roads and landslides. The heavy rains have also blocked the rescue operations and still about 53 people are expected to be trapped under the debris.

KT Jaleel, the minister for local administration, who is coordinating the relief works in the districts, told reporters that five from among the missing people are safe and 44 are missing. The rescue operations are still on to find these people.

As on Monday morning, death toll in Wayanad’s Puthumala, Meppadi region, where a massive landslide washed away an entire village reached 10 and seven people are still missing.

On Monday, the intensity of rain was not much severe and it made the rescue operations much easier than the previous days, said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after video conferencing with the district collectors. Chief Minister has also urged the district collectors to ensure basic facilities in relief camps.

All across the state, as many as 1,639 relief camps are being set up with 2,51,831 inmates. Maximum displacement occurred in Malappuram with 56,203 people. Camps in Wayanad have about 37,059 inmates and Kannur camps has 19,924 inmates.

Hate campaign against flood relief and CMDRF

Ever since the central and northern Kerala have been witnessing heavy rains and landslides, misleading messages and negative campaigns against the rescue and relief operations along with the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) have started doing rounds in social media platforms.

Such misleading messages were claiming that the CMDRF is being misused by the state government and the affected people are not getting the benefits. The misleading messages also claim that the chief ministers and ministers are roaming abroad using the same fund. These messages urge the people to make contributions to certain NGOs and organisations. However, the people involved in the relief and rescue operations say that these messages are indirectly urging the people to make donations to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) outfits like Seva Bharati.

The state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac took to Facebook to pull apart the lies.

“Such posts say that the money contributed is misused for the chief minister’s foreign trips and other extravagance. There is separate money in the budget for the CM’s foreign travel and for buying vehicles. There is no need to mix the two,” he said.

The CM’s relief fund gets money from the budget allocation and mass contributions made by people. As per the update on August 12, Rs 4,356.55 crore have been poured into the relief fund and the details are open to all on the website. As on July 14 this year, a total of Rs. 2008.76 crore had been allotted from the fund benefiting as many as 7,37,484 people.

Read More: Rain Fury Kills Over 700 in 10 States

On Sunday morning, in a press meet, CM Vijayan also addressed the issue of fake news and urged people not to fall for it.

Revenue principal secretary Dr V Venu IAS, who is serving as the CEO of Rebuild Kerala – an initiative that is behind the rebuilding activities in the state after the floods 2018 – addressed the main arguments against the distress fund. “CMRDF is not a new venture, which had come into existence after the floods 2018. People who are in every kind of distress can apply for the assistance from this fund. But the funds that have been raised for the flood relief have separate accountability and that does not mean that there are no funds under CMDRF for other things,” Dr. Venu said in a Facebook post. Further, Right To Information Act (RTI) is applicable to CMDRF and the people are entitled to get all information about it. CMDRF funds are also open to audit by the Comptroller and Accountant General and the budgeting and expenditure is subject to scrutiny by the State Legislature, he added.

While certain the NGOs and organisations, like Seva Bharati, conducted a separate fund-raising drive, they have not disclosed details of the money collected and utilised. Volunteers who are involved in the relief and rescue operations say that the source of these fake messages are right-wing groups.

The people of the state, however, without paying any heed to false news and messages, continue to donate to the relief fund.

Here is the link that directs to the CMDRF website for making donation:

Read More: Kerala Floods: 80 Landslides in 2 days, 48 Killed, Over 1 Lakh Displaced

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