During the special Assembly session convened to discuss the relief and rehabilitation measures underway to cope with the state’s worst floods in a century, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan informed the House that a total of 483 people lost their lives in rain-related incidents this monsoon. While 14 people are reported to be still missing, around 140 people were admitted to hospitals during this period.
Vijayan, who deferred his trip to the US for medical treatment scheduled for earlier this month to lead his administration’s rehabilitation exercise, said the losses due to the floods and landslides are more than the state’s annual plan. In the 2017-18 fiscal year, Kerala’s annual plan outlay was pegged at Rs 26,500 crore.
“The rescue operations which took place at the height of the monsoon are without comparison. To all those who sacrificed their lives to help others, who took brave and daring steps to rescue one another, we want to offer a big salute,” the chief minister said in his speech.
“The rescue operations are over, rehabilitation measures are continuing and rebuilding of the state is left,” he added.
The CM also said that the 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 the Centre’s refusal to accept the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) reported offer of Rs 700 crore to the flood-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.
On August 21, when the monsoon took its fiercest form, a total of 14.5 lakh people belonging to 3.91 lakh families had to be rushed to nearby relief camps. Many others moved to their relatives’ homes when their houses got flooded. Today, the number of relief camps has come down to 305, which together account for 59,296 people belonging to 16,767 families. A sum of Rs 10,000 will be offered to every family who had to take refuge at the relief camps. The funds for compensation have already been released to the respective district collectors from the chief minister’s distress relief fund. Free kits containing essential items like rice, atta, sugar and clothes are also being distributed to those returning home from the camps.
The chief minister made it clear that the economic impact of the floods was immense with a large number of small and medium-scale enterprises being heavily affected by the floodwaters. The agricultural production of the state has also been hit, with 57,000 hectares of crops damaged.
“The government is optimistic that there will be creative discussions with all parties in this House regarding the rebuilding of the state,” he said.
At the same time, VD Satheeshan, KPCC vice-president and Congress MLA, termed the floods a ‘man-made disaster’ for which accountability must be fixed as soon as possible. He said no preliminary tests were conducted to examine the impact of the opening and closing of dam shutters on the state’s rivers, especially during high tide and low tide. He, however, promised the government that there will be complete cooperation from the Opposition in the rebuilding of Kerala.