Recently Kerala had been struggling with ceaseless rains triggering one of the worst floods the state has experienced in decades. While hundreds of people have lost their lives and thousands displaced, the central and state government have been mobilizing all possible resources towards relief and rescue operations. At this time of distress, the central government has been resolute in providing urgent aid and relief material without any reservation to the state.
Though there are certain sections of people trying to misrepresent facts and paint the tragedy in colours of regionalism for political agenda, the Prime Minister undeterred by this absurdity has been relentlessly working towards the relief work by personally monitoring it on a daily basis. He visited the state on the 17th and 18th August and instructed the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), to regularly monitor and coordinate the rescue operations.
Following the decision, taken in the meeting held amongst senior defense service officers, officers from NDRF and NDMA, Secretaries of civilian ministries and the Kerala chief secretary, the Center launched one of the largest rescue operations with 40 helicopters, 31 aircrafts, 182 teams of rescue, 18 medical teams of defense forces, 58 teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), 7 companies of CRPFs were pressed into service along with over 500 boats and necessary rescue equipment. All the resources working simultaneously managed to rescue over 60000 human lives.
Defence aircraft and helicopters have made 1084 sorties of duration 1168 flying hours and airlifted 1286 tonnes of loads and carried 3332 rescuers. In addition to this Navy and Coast, Gaurd ships were used to carry relief materials to Kerala.
The rigorous search and rescue operations and mobilization of resources alone would have cost the central government hundreds of crores of a rupee.
Financial mechanism to meet the rescue and relief expenditure during any notified disaster event is governed by notified guidelines on the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF). Every State needs to follow the protocol laid down by the government.
In the case of recent floods in Kerala, the centre anticipating the urgency had released 600 crores in advance pending assessment by the IMCT; an Inter-Ministerial Central Team, deputed by the centre for on-the-spot assessment of damages and the additional requirement of funds. This is in addition to the 562.45 crores already made available in SDRF of the state, (SDRF has been constituted in each state in which center contributes 75 percent for general category states and 90 percent for special category states of the hilly region every year, to meet the rescue and relief expenditure in case of any notified disaster).
In addition to the financial support, the centre has made available large quantities of emergency food, water, medicines and other essential supplies, including additional allocation of food grain, as and when requested by the State. While doing this the regular protocols have been disregarded keeping the crisis in mind.
Alongside, a number of measures from various schemes of the central government have been also announced. Few being, ex-gratia payments from the Pradhan Mantri’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), rebuilding of damaged infrastructure under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), additional 5.5 crore person days under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), national agencies like the NHAI, NTPC, and PGCIL to assist the state in rebuilding national highways and restoring power supply.
It has been clarified that Rs. 600 crores released by the centre is the advance assistance only. Additional funds would be released from NDRF on the assessment of damages as per the laid down procedure.
Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan has expressed sincere gratitude to the central government and Prime Minister Modi for the assistance provided during the on-going relief work in the aftermath of the Kerala floods in an interview with Vasudha Venugopal of Economic Times.
While certain people have been using the tragedy to further their own political agenda and fan regionalist sentiments and fuel a North-South divide in the country and ‘liberal’ intellectuals have been resorting to fanning separatist sentiments in the wake of the Kerala floods, Kerala CM Vijayan and Prime Minister Modi has perhaps displayed how in the time of crisis, politics should play second fiddle federal cooperation.