As Kerala fights the unexpected disaster it faced recently, the chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan who has been the face of ‘Kerala’s fight back and recovery’, in his interview in the State Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram before he eventually left for the US on 2nd September, answered all scepticism doing the rounds since Kerala has been facing its biggest challenge in the recent past.
He said the government is working towards building a “better Kerala”, there is “no confusion” about the assistance offer from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Centre has been very supportive and that his State has set an example in disaster management to the world.
In his interview, Vijayan begins by saying that the government aims to tackle this disaster with a twin strategy- “while the State must completely recover from the damage, we must adopt policies at the same time that will take it ahead in terms of development” and expressed his gratitude for the help that’s flowing in from within and outside the country.
He revealed that according to the initial assessments the total loss would be greater than the size of the State’s annual plan [estimated at ₹29,150 crore], and the primary concern was to get funds. As several have come forward to offer to help, the ‘Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund’ has already crossed ₹1,000 crore, said the Chief Minister.
He went on to speak about how the Nation has come together to provide financial assistance, whether in the form of their one month salary or any small contribution which would greatly help the State to recover from the catastrophe. While on one hand, the Chief Minister was of the opinion that the Central government should not say ‘no’ when countries, institutions or individuals voluntarily come forward with help in the event of a natural disaster, as according to the National Disaster Management Plan, brought out by the Central government in 2016, voluntary assistance from other countries can be accepted, he on the other hand agreed that the Centre has been very supportive towards Kerala.
“Central aid never comes in one disbursal; it comes in phases. What the Centre has announced is only advance assistance, and it’s a good amount”, said the Chief Minister in his interview. He went on to confirm that “the Centre had also sent the soldiers and equipment which the State had requested during the rescue mission. We expect the government to take the same approach while announcing the final aid, after a complete assessment of the losses. We also hope the Centre will allow the State to raise its borrowing limit”.
Pinarayi Vijayan went on to use this platform to clear the fallacy which had been envisaged by several propagandists to meet their political agenda, masquerading the slandering under the cloak of showing sympathy towards the flood victims. The announcement the CM had made last month in a press briefing that the UAE has ‘offered’ financial assistance of Rs. 700 crore for Kerala floods relief, which had, however, fallen flat, had given the ‘Pioneers’ an opportunity to zero in on the BJP.
Vijayan, though, had then made such an assertion without receiving any official confirmation from the Centre regarding the same, cleared his stance by saying, “There’s no confusion. What if they offer more than ₹700 crore? When they say the amount is not final, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be giving any aid. If that information is wrong, who should say that? Those involved in the discussion should say, right? So, either the Prime Minister or the UAE President should do so. But neither of them has said what I said was wrong. So I still expect that the aid will be formally announced and the Government of India will be willing to accept it”.
He further also refuted the allegations on the poor dam management, which has also been on the front burner since Kerala has been battling the current situation, saying that the dams were opened after issuing all the necessary alerts, and it’s not just dam water that caused the floods. He asserted that the weather forecasters could not forecast this extreme precipitation, therefore, the situation before 9th of August did not demand that dams be opened.
On being asked whether it was tough to be the Chief Minister while the State is facing so much crisis, Vijayan said that “We managed to do it as the people of Kerala stood together, setting aside all differences. And we got timely help from a host of people, from Central forces to the fisherfolk of the State. All this helped Kerala reduce the magnitude of the calamity”.