As Kerala continues to battle floods, the Pinarayi Vijayan government has found itself caught between nature’s fury and the lack of resources to wade through the flooded waters in ‘God’s own country’.
The state’s residents, politicians and bureaucrats have come together to provide relief and help with rebuilding, but what is striking is the delayed response in the release of funds for rescue and relief operations in the state from the central government.
The Centre is assisting the civilian administration in rescue work through deployment of 52 rescue teams of central forces, including units of the Army and the Navy, and has pressed 339 motorised boats, 2,800 life jackets, 1,400 lifeboats, 27 light towers and 1,000 raincoats into service.
But the Rs 100 crore relief fund released by the Centre when the state asked for immediate assistance of Rs 1,220 crore doesn’t seem enough. According to latest estimates, the monsoon-related loss in Kerala is around Rs 10,000 crore.
Meanwhile, it’s ironical that the same central government, which released less than 10 per cent of the estimated damage in Kerala, granted better package for other states that bore the brunt of floods recently - Gujarat, Assam and Bihar - all three where the BJP is in part of the government .
Flood waters swept across several places in the country on July 25 last year, killing two in Rajasthan and forcing Gujarat to declare a high alert. A week later, the heavy deluge would kill another 222 people.
Prime Minister’s reaction to the disaster in his home-state was prompt. A day after the deaths, he announced an interim relief package of Rs 500 crore and he undertook an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas with Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
From June 13 to August 3 this year, the north-eastern state battled floods that came in two waves and killed 41 people. Nearly 11 lakh people in seven districts of the state were affected.
Jitendra Singh, Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, PMO office, announced Rs 340.4 crore as an interim flood relief package for the state—Rs 239.40 crore by way of the first installment of central share of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and Rs 101 crore as the contribution from the Ministry of Northeast (DoNER).
Flash floods in several rivers—Gandak, Burhi Gandak and Bagmati, Kamla, Kosi and Mahananda—killed as many as 514 people and affected another 1.71 crore people across 19 districts of North Bihar from August 12 to August 20 in 2017. The deluge was a result of torrential rains in the foothills of Himalayas in Nepal and other adjoining areas in the catchment area of major rivers in the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted an aerial survey of four affected districts—Purnea, Katihar, Kisanganj and Araria—with the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and announced Rs 500 crore as immediate relief for the state besides Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of those who died in the flood.