New Delhi: An all-party delegation from Kerala on Thursday met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and urged him to provide more funds to the flood-hit state and allow foreign assistance.
Eleven MPs belonging to the Congress, the CPI-M, the RSP, the Kerala Congress(Mani) and one independent were part of the delegation which apprised the home minister on the prevailing situation in the southern state which faced the worst deluge in a century that claimed over 320 lives since August 8.
"Irrespective of the party, we are united for rebuilding Kerala. We want more funds. We have asked the home minister to waive off the restriction on foreign assistance. The home minister has assured us that he will speak to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj," senior Congress leader and former Defence Minister A K Antony told reporters after the meeting.
Those part of the team include Antony, K V Thomas, K C Venugopal, K Suresh, Anto Antony, M K Raghavan (all Congress), P Karunakaran and P K Biju (CPI-M), N K Premachandran (RSP), Jose K Mani (Kerala Congress Mani) and Joice George (CPI-M backed Indepednent).
The Kerala leaders said Union Tourism Minister Alphons Kannanthanam, who hails from Kerala, could not join them as he was away in China.
The central government had already allotted Rs 600 crore for flood relief after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the home minister visited the state.
However, citing a 2004 decision of the then UPA government, the Centre had said that it would not accept any foreign assistance for natural calamities. The External Affairs Ministry's clarification came following reports of offer of Rs 700 crore assistance to Kerala.
According to a preliminary estimate, the loss and damage due to the rain fury was Rs 20,000 crore, but Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said it would be much more.
The deluge in the state, the worst in a century, had claimed 483 lives since August 8 besides causing widespread destruction.
With more people returning home, the number of those lodged in relief camps have gone down to 98,000, officials said yesterday. There were more than 14.50 lakh people housed in camps on August 21.
Union minister of state for Finance Pon Radhakrishnan said yesterday that the Centre would consider all demands, including increasing the borrowing limit of the state, to raise funds for rehabilitation of flood victims and rebuilding the state.
The state had asked the Centre to enhance the borrowing limit from 3 per cent State Gross Domestic Product (SGDP) to 4.5 per cent and had sought permission to impose a cess of 10 per cent on state GST.
A central team is expected to visit Kerala soon to assess the damage caused and a decision on the assistance would be made after its report.