THE CENTRE has declared the Kerala floods as a calamity of “severe nature”, paving the way for national assistance in various forms, officials said.
“Keeping in view the intensity and magnitude of the floods/landslides of 2018 in Kerala, this is a calamity of a ‘severe nature’ for all practical purposes,” the Home Ministry said.
Officials said the central government has also scaled up its relief and rescue operations. Apart from the central command and control room at North Block, a WhatsApp group of senior officials has been operational for seamless coordination, officials said.
The group has representatives from Kerala and other states such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Odisha. While the Home Ministry has facilitated the movement of personnel and material, representatives in the group from India Meteorological Department (IMD), Central Water Commission (CWC), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have ensured that the response time is minimal, officials said.
“The state (Kerala) informed us about its requirement. On the group, we found which agency or state could carry out the job, who was nearest or who could drop the supplies and conduct rescue operations. Once the details were worked out, around 1,000 NDRF personnel and 12 columns of Army deployed in the flood-affected districts were diverted to provide assistance for the task. So far, we have rescued more than 43,000 persons out of which NDRF alone was responsible for safely evacuating more than 15,000 persons followed by Navy, which rescued over 12,000 individuals,” an official said.
NDMA officials said medical teams from the Centre and adjoining states have been dispatched to Kerala. “These teams are equipped with kits that include life-saving drugs and other medicine that will help prevent any epidemic. Union Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha held a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) to oversee relief and rescue work,” an official said.
Under the “severe nature” category, support to the state government is provided at the national level, with the possibility of additional assistance from the Centre’s National Disaster Response Fund. In such a case, a Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) is set up, with the corpus shared 3:1 between the Centre and state.
Once a calamity is declared “severe”, relief in repayment of loans or grant of fresh loans on concessional terms are also considered.
Following the announcement, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan met Monday evening to discuss the scale of the damage, and later appealed to members of both Houses to contribute from their MPLADS funds for relief and rehabilitation — and donate a month’s salary.
“We have decided to donate our one month’s salary towards the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for this noble and humanitarian cause. We also appeal to all MPs to consider donating their one month’s salary for the purpose,” Naidu said in his appeal.
As per MPLADS guidelines, if the government declares a calamity of “severe nature”, each MP can contribute up to Rs 1 crore for relief and rehabilitation work. The guidelines say that from the day an MP makes such a contribution, authorities will have to identify within a month the relief work that would benefit and ensure that it is done within eight months.