KERALA HAS sought a special package of Rs 2,600 crore from the Centre for relief and rehabilitation, following heavy rainfall and floods that have claimed 231 lives since August 8, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Tuesday following a state cabinet meeting.
The state government has also decided to launch a new lottery to help fund its rehabilitation effort, he said. “The government is planning to build a new Kerala, not just rebuild what existed before the floods,” Vijayan said.
The Chief Minister said that the UAE, which is home to thousands of expatriates from the state, has promised assistance worth Rs 700 crore.
However, official sources in Delhi said India will not be able to accept such funds from a foreign government due to a policy put in place by the former UPA government following the 2004 tsunami. At the time, the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, had said that India can cope with such situations on its own and will take help only if needed.
Chief Minister Vijayan said the state has sought a “special package” from the Centre under various centrally sponsored schemes, including the rural employment programme MNREGS. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet have collectively announced interim assistance of Rs 680 crore for the state so far.
According to the Chief Minister, the cabinet decided to seek sanction from the GST Council to levy 10 per cent cess. The state would also ask the central government to increase the cap on the state’s market borrowing. At present, the debt cap of the state is three per cent of its GDP. If this is increased to 4.5 per cent, the state can borrow an additional Rs 10,500 crore from the market, Vijayan said.
Last week, soon after the state was hit by heavy rains, the government had increased excise duty on liquor from 21 per cent to 21.5 per cent of purchase cost. The new tax regime would continue until November 30, Vijayan said. The sale of alcohol and lottery schemes are major sources of revenue for the state.
Striking a note of caution, the Chief Minister said the government has come to know that some private lenders and representatives of financial institutions have gone to relief camps to collect their dues. “They should desist from such moves,” he said.
On the UAE offer, Vijayan said the Gulf country has promised assistance of $100 million. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, called Prime Minister Modi and extended the offer, Vijayan said.
Over 10.78 lakh people, including 2.12 lakh women and 1 lakh children below 12 years of age, are taking shelter in 3,200 relief camps, he said.
Over 1.63 lakh people were rescued in the last five days alone, Vijayan said, adding that rescue efforts will continue “till the last person is brought to safety”.
Later in the day, a meeting chaired by Vijayan reviewed the relief and clean-up process. As many as 3,119 squads of health and local self-government departments were engaged in cleaning houses in the affected areas. On Tuesday, 12,372 houses were cleaned and ten tonnes of plastic waste collected. As many as 52,000 volunteers have been registered for relief activities.
Meanwhile, the IAF rescued four persons from Chengannur and 11 from Nelliyampathy in Palakkad. However, helicopters were mainly deployed to drop food packets.
Road and rail services have resumed in most parts of the state. The state government, Vijayan said, is also preparing a comprehensive health action programme to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases.
A special assembly session will be held on August 30 to discuss relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction, the Chief Minister said.