The Tamil Nadu government’s demand for a relief package for Cyclone Vardah appears to be inflated, sources have said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has informed the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that the state’s demand of Rs 1,950 crore as “interim” relief cannot be granted till a report of the central team assessing the damage caused by Vardah is received by the end of this month.
A preliminary assessment by the MHA revealed that the extent of damage to property and infrastructure was less than Rs 21,000 crore —- the figure claimed by the Tamil Nadu government.
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The central team, headed by a joint secretary from the MHA and comprising eight other officials, are currently in Chennai to assess the damage and will submit its report by December 31.
A senior government official said, “We are awaiting the final report by the central team, though the amount demanded by the state government for interim relief appears to be inflated. In our preliminary assessment, the extent of damage is not of that scale. The immediate relief has to be disbursed from the Prime Minister’s relief fund and the incident has to qualify as a natural disaster.”
Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who took over after Jayalalithaa’s death, had sought interim relief of Rs 1,000 crore for immediate cyclone relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. However, the state government in its proposal revised the demand and sought Rs 1,950 crore, pegging the loss due to the cyclone at Rs 21,000 crore.
The MHA, meanwhile, set up a team to assess the damage and asked the state government to provide a memorandum based on which the relief money could be released.
After the cyclone, Panneerselvam had requested the PM to sanction Rs 1,000 crore from the National Disaster Response Fund. “Several relief, rehabilitation and immediate reconstruction measures have to be undertaken by the state government, along with urban and rural local bodies in the areas affected by cyclone, which is beyond the funds available in the state disaster response fund,” his letter stated.