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In Rare Show of Unity, Kerala Politicians Decide to Pressure Centre to Accept Foreign Aid

Pinarayi Vijayan said government would explore the possibility of legal options to avail the funds offered to the state, including that from abroad.


Updated:August 30, 2018, 10:59 PM IST
In Rare Show of Unity, Kerala Politicians Decide to Pressure Centre to Accept Foreign Aid
File photo of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Thiruvananthapuram: In a rare show of unity, the Kerala assembly on Thursday adopted a unanimous resolution seeking more funds from the Centre to rebuild the state battered by torrential rains which claimed 483 lives since the onset of the southwest monsoon on May 28.

The rains had affected over 55 lakh people and left a trail of destruction. With life limping to normalcy, cleaning operations continued in several parts of the state, including worst-hit Kuttanad and Wayanad. More than 60,000 volunteers are engaged in the operations.

The House, convened specially to discuss the large-scale destruction, asked the Centre to take a "favourable stand" to make use of the financial and technical support extended by foreign countries and global agencies in rebuilding the state.

The state's motto will be to 'Build Back Better' for a new Kerala. And for this, the state's politicians agreed to pressure the Centre to accept foreign aid as one.

Vijayan also said government would explore the possibility of legal options to avail the funds offered to the state, including that from abroad. His statement assumes significance in the wake of a row over Centre's refusal to accept the United Arab Emirates' reported offer of Rs 700 crore to the rain-ravaged state.

"Offers of financial assistance for Kerala are pouring in from different quarters of the world. The government is also moving towards legal steps to avail these funds," Vijayan said.

The funds offered from across the globe is giving confidence to the government, he said. Besides Rs 600 crore sanctioned by the Centre, the state was hopeful to get more financial assistance from the Union government considering the gravity of the situation, the chief minister said.

A nearly eight-hour-long debate over the opposition demanding a judicial probe into the circumstances that led to release of water from dams, which, they allege, was the main reason for the deluge.

Rejecting the charge, Vijayan said the continuous 'extreme heavy rainfall' that lashed the state between August 8-20, four times than what was normal, was the cause for the floods.

The Chief Minister said there were "lapses" on the part of the India Meteorological Department's rain forecast during this period. The IMD had forecast an estimated 98.5 mm rain in the state between August 9 and 15. But, the actual rain received was 352.2 mm, he said, adding he was not finding fault with anyone.

Terming the calamity as the worst in a century that had virtually battered all sectors of the economy, Vijayan said 57,000 hectares of agricultural land was flooded. Flood water entered lakhs of houses forcing people to flee to relief camps, he said.

But rescue operations were carried out promptly and on a war-footing by the government in coordination with various defence forces. The effort helped reduce the toll, he said. The House requested the Centre to extend more funds after assessing the damage and loss caused by the deluge, besides the first instalment of Rs 600 crore.

While taking up this kind of massive rehabilitation and rebuilding exercise, financial and technical support at international level was a necessity, he said.

"So the House requests the Centre to adopt a favourable stand to make use of the financial and technical support offered by the foreign countries, international agencies like United Nations and financial agencies, including World Bank, in the rebuilding initiatives by protecting the interest of the state," the resolution said.

On the gravity of the situation, the resolution said more than 55 lakh people in 981 villages are estimated to have been affected by the deluge.

It also wanted the Centre to entrust a special agency to scientifically assess the damage caused by the floods to prepare plans for rehabilitation and rebuilding initiatives. Vijayan said the state's economy had been badly hit and the loss could be much more than the state's annual plan outlay for the year which stood at Rs 37,247.99 crore.

Though the opposition extended its full support to the government initiatives for rebuilding, its leader Ramesh Chennithala said it was the opposition's responsibility to point out the government's lapses and shortcomings.

Terming the deluge as "dam-induced", Chennithala said government should order a judicial probe to find the 'lapses', if any, on the part of officials in releasing water from dams. Speakers from both opposition and ruling side wanted to take into consideration the environmental aspects while taking up construction activities in disaster-prone areas.

They also wanted to arrive at a consensus whether the displaced people should be rehabilitated in the same areas where large-scale landslides had occurred. Meanwhile, Indian Navy donated Rs 8.92 crore to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund as a voluntary contribution from the salaries of naval personnel to help the flood-ravaged state.

Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba handed over the cheque to the Chief Minister here, an official release said. Reliance Foundation also contributed Rs 21 crore to the CMDRF and its chairperson Nita Ambani handed over the cheque to Vijayan.

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