Kerala Government, Congress spread misinformation about bill for Kerala flood rescue operations

Sending bill to state for use of defence forces in rescue operations is a routine procedure

The controversies around devastating floods in Kerala refuse to die. After the allegations that the central government was ignoring the request for aid, and media spreading the narrative that North India was depriving South India of its due, now a new allegation has been made. For last few days, a section of media has been reporting that the central government has sent a bill for rescue operations done by central security forces during the floods.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the Air Force has asked the state to pay over ₹33.79 crore as the charge for rescue operations. This was presented as a grave injustice done to Kerala by the centre by many people. Shashi Tharoor tweeted that central govt is taking back money from the aid it has given to the state.

Official Twitter handle of Mahila Congress said that it “is one of the most shameful & deplorable acts one can imagine.”

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Soon this was used to launch an attack on the central government and BJP by the usual suspects.

Although the fact that the centre has sent a bill to the Kerala government is true, the claim that it is an unusual act done against Kerala is false. By sending the bill, the union government has performed a routine procedure which is always done when security forces are engaged in civilian works, and it is not unique to Kerala floods.

According to accounting rules of the government, the state government has to pay for various duties performed by armed forces and also for various items used for such works. The Government Accounting Rules, 1990 specified by the Controller General of Accounts says that state government has to pay for use of armed forces for various activities like rescue operations in disasters, assistance taken for development activities etc. Only for taking help of armed forces in the maintenance of law and order, the state government need not pay. Appendix 5 of the rules give the detail of this procedure.

The defence budget provides for defence related activities of the armed forces, therefore for any non-defence use of the forces, it has to be paid from the civilian budget. That is a normal procedure being followed, and not something the Modi government has specifically done for Kerala floods. Although theoretically, the state government has to pay for it, in most cases it comes from the central government. While allocating relief package for a state after such a disaster, the cost of deployment of armed forces is factored in that package. At the time of disbursement of the money to the state, this amount is deducted. This means the state is actually not paying from its funds, but it is paid from the grant received from the central government. This is essentially a book adjustment done by the Centre, as the amount is directly paid to the relevant armed force by the union government.

This is not the first time the central government coming under attack for this ‘billing’, this happened after most disasters involving rescue operations by defence forces. In 2015, the centre had sent a bill of ₹500 crore to Jammu and Kashmir for services provided by defence forces during the devastating floods in the state in 2014. After this was reported by media, it had created a similar outrage.

Defence ministry sending a bill to states for use of defence forces for non-defence purposes is a routine accounting procedure as per established law, and it does not reflect any bias against any state as political parties and section of media are trying to portray.

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