As Kerala continues to reel under heavy rains and floods along with landslides and landslips, the BJP-led centre has announced immediate release of a grant of only Rs. 100 crore for the state as part of the aid of Rs. 160.50 crore announced earlier. This grant sidelines the state’s demand of Rs. 1,220 crore as an immediate relief.
The calamities following the vigorous South-West monsoon have claimed the lives of 39 people in the state. Apart from that, thousands have been left homeless, agricultural land along with the assets of farmers have been swept away, and at various places, sections of roads and buildings have collapsed. Considering all these, the state government had estimated a loss of Rs. 8,316 crore and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had requested for an immediate relief of Rs. 1,220 crore from the National Disaster Relief Fund. However, the BJP-led central government on Sunday announced a grant of Rs. 100 crore that consists of only eight per cent of the total amount requested by the state.
Out of this Rs. 1,220 crore, Rs. 820 crore had been demanded as compensation for the monsoon damages during the first phase, as recommended by the central team under the NDRF guidelines which had paid a visit to the state. The CM has requested the central team to be sent again to assess the losses that have occurred during the second phase in Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan said in a Facebook post.
The state has witnessed the biggest flood this season since 1924. Ten of its total fourteen districts have been severely affected. 27 Dams have had to be opened. From August 9 to 12, 39 people have died, and the overall death toll stands at 186 in this season. More than 60,000 people have been housed in various relief camps across the state and 211 places have seen landslides and landslips. Around 20,000 houses have been destroyed, and nearly 10,000 km of public roads have been damaged. As the CM said, “Kerala has to bear the impact of the disaster for a long time”.
However, the real magnitude of the disaster is yet to be measured. The agricultural sector is expecting a production drop in the coming season. In the tea sector, a 50 per cent production drop is expected in Munnar alone. Munnar, the hub of tea plantations is in Idukki district, which witnessed a high degree of damage. Earlier, the Association of Planters of Kerala had said that the sector had incurred a loss of 100-125 kg per hectare of tea due to erratic weather conditions.
Rubber trees, one of the major cash crops in the state, have also been experiencing a leaf fall disease due to continuous rain which is expected to impact the production in the coming months. Not only rubber and tea, a majority of the crops have been affected due to continuous rainfall whose repercussions will be visible in the production and the markets.
Though the state machinery under the ruling coalition, Left Democratic Front, and opposition parties have been working rigorously to protect the lives of all the people from the affected areas, the BJP-led centre has not been very generous to the state.
In this context, state Finance Minister Thomas Issac responded on his Twitter wall saying, “Total loss of floods to Kerala around ₹8000 crore. Immediate mitigation and rectification expenditure to the state around ₹3000 crore. And the central grant (is) precious ₹100 crore. And that too if it is from regular disaster management fund due to Kerala, I do not know!”
Earlier in December 2017, at the time of Ockhi cyclone too, the Centre had disowned the state along with Tamil Nadu- those who had been affected the maximum, compared to the compensation granted to Gujarat. At that time, the Centre had sanctioned an advanced release of Rs. 133 crore from NDRF for Kerala, though the state had sought an assistance of Rs. 422 crore. Apart from this, the state had requested for a rehabilitation package of Rs. 7,340 crore which too was neglected.
However, even though the cyclone had dissipated over the sea before hitting the Gujarat coast according to Jayanta Sarkar, the director of the MeT centre, the state had received a relief amount of Rs. 1,055 crore as flood relief fund.
The question which arises now is- why is the Centre so reluctant to provide funds for a state that shares it’s taxes with the Centre?
Earlier this year in April, in a Conclave of south Indian finance ministers, (except Tamil Nadu and Telangana) the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission were discussed. During the conclave, the ministers observed that the BJP-led centre arbitrarily prepared the terms of reference, making a conscious effort to cut the Centre’s share of funds to be allocated to these states.
At the time, the finance minister of Kerala Dr. Issac had explained that the Centre was attempting to reduce the states’ share to fund its own schemes. He had also observed that the commission’s task was not to gauge the performance of the states but to share the taxes.