Central Aid For Kerala is Less Than Cost of 1 Rafale Fighter Jet
In response to Kerala’s request for Rs 2,000 crore for the rehabilitation of those affected by recent floods, the Centre has released Rs 600 crore, 30% of what the state sought. That’s less than the cost of one Rafale fighter jet (Rs 670 crore), 36 of which India hopes to buy from France.
Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala’s Chief Minister, said on 21 August 2018, that the state would demand a ‘special package’ of Rs 2,600 crore under various centrally sponsored schemes, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
The floods that ravaged Kerala between 1 June and 18 August 2018, have left a wide trail of death and destruction, but controversy has broken out over the aid provided by the Centre.
While the death toll has reached 373, more than 1.2 million people are in relief camps and losses are pegged at Rs 20,000 crore, 16% of the state’s 2018-19 expenditure, the New Indian Express reported on 18 August 2018.
When Bihar faced widespread floods in August 2017, the Centre gave it financial assistance of Rs 1,853 crore, the largest that year. Those floods killed 649 people and 256 cattle, destroying 810,000 hectares of farmland and 357,197 houses, as per this Lok Sabha reply, dated 24 July 2018.
The central government recently released an interim sum of Rs 600 crore. An IndiaSpend analysis of the cost of some other public expenses incurred by the central government shows that this interim relief is less than:
- The amount allocated towards the construction of an exhibition cum convention centre (ECC), Dwarka, New Delhi– Rs 700 crore.
- The amount spent on the purchase of two new VVIP aircraft for special flights operated by Air India for the President, Vice President and Prime Minister–Rs 4,469.5 crore ($640 million);
- The allocation made by the Centre for the revival of 50 airports/airstrips under the Regional Connectivity Scheme–Rs 890 crore.
Telangana Pledged Most –12% of Total Aid Announced by 24 States
Besides the Centre, 24 states have promised Rs 206 crore to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF). The CMDRF has so far received Rs 210 crore of financial assistance in addition to the Rs 160 crore pledged, according to Finance minister T.M. Thomas Isaac’s tweet.
Telangana is the biggest state donor so far at Rs 25 crore, which is 12% of the aid promised by 24 states. The state has also offered reverse osmosis machines worth Rs 2.5 crore to provide drinking water to those affected by the floods, as per a state press release.
Maharashtra ranks second on the generosity list, having announced a relief fund of Rs 20 crore, according to an official press release. Also, 11 tonnes of dry food, 30 tonnes of relief material and 50 doctors are being flown in to Kerala by the state.
The first financial aid to Kerala came from neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Both contributed Rs 10 crore each towards the CMDRF. Tamil Nadu has also promised 500 tonnes of rice, 300 tonnes of milk powder, 15,000 litres of ultra-high temperature processed milk and 10,000 blankets and lungis. The Karnataka government has also offered to send a team of doctors and healthcare workers to Kerala’s rehabilitation camps.
Uttar Pradesh is the third largest contributor, at Rs 15 crore. The governments of Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh have all pledged Rs 10 crore each.
Other states have stepped forward too, donating to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund: Odisha (Rs 5 crore), Himachal Pradesh (Rs 5 crore), Uttarakhand (Rs 5 crore), Jharkhand (Rs 5 crore), Assam (Rs 3 crore), Arunachal Pradesh (Rs 3 crore), Jammu and Kashmir (Rs 2 crore) and Manipur (Rs 2 crore).
Offers to help are also pouring in from abroad. The United Arab Emirates announced a donation of Rs 700 crore for rehabilitation work. Qatar announced Rs 35 crore in assistance. In addition to this, Maldives has also offered Rs 35 lakh. However, the acceptance of foreign aid may be problematic – the National Disaster Policy of 2005 spoke of using national capacity to deal with domestic disasters.
The Financial Implications of Kerala’s Losses Are Immense
The Centre’s first response to the early landslides in the state had been to release Rs. 80.25 crore to the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) on 20 July 2018, according to a Rajya Sabha reply on 1 August 2018 by Kiren Rijiju, minister for home affairs.
This was followed by an announcement of Rs 100 crore on 12 August 2018, and Rs 500 crore on 18 August 2018, from the NDRF, according to a press release. In all, this amounts to Rs 600 crore.
The magnitude of damage caused by the incessant rains is worth exploring. The assessed losses, Rs 20,000 crore, can fund:
- The construction of more than 4 million houses under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (the prime minister’s housing project);
- 87% of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (Rs 23,000 has been allocated towards the mission as of 2018-19);
- The construction of 57,000 km of roads under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (the prime minister’s rural roads project);
- 26 wind power projects under the grid interactive renewable power banner;
- 14 missions such as the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (national higher education mission), according to this report on the outcome budget of 2018-19.
With Rs 20,000 crore alone, Kerala could’ve funded, according to the 2018-19 budget:
- 20 years’ worth of food subsidies. (Rs 954 crore had been budgeted under food subsidies this year.)
- LIFE housing schemes to provide accommodations to 1.4 million people. The floods displaced more than 1.2 million people this year. (Rs 2,500 crore had been allocated this year to provide houses to 176,000 landless people.)
- Almost 11 years’ worth of public health infrastructure. (This year, the government had earmarked Rs 1,685.70 crore.)
Past Experience of Dealing with Disasters
Relief and rehabilitation is primarily undertaken by state governments. It is funded by state disaster response funds, to which central and state governments contribute in the ratio of 75:25 for general category states and 90:10 for 11 special category states considered “disadvantaged”, according to a 3 January 2018 reply by Kiren Rijiju in Lok Sabha.
Calamities identified as “severe” are assisted from the centrally controlled National Disaster Response Fund. In 2017-18, many states suffered severe flooding, including Bihar, West Bengal, Gujarat, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Odisha and Jharkhand.
Bihar, as we said, received the largest chunk of aid (Rs 1,853 crore) from the Centre in 2017-18 for flooding, followed by West Bengal (Rs 751.5 crore).
India could see a six-fold increase in population exposed to a risk of severe floods by 2040, according to a study published in Science Advances, a peer-reviewed journal, IndiaSpend reported on 10 February 2018, and a 2018 World Bank study has warned that climate change could lower the standards of living of nearly half of India’s population by 2050.
(This was first published on IndiaSpend and has been republished with permission.)
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