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From Fani, Titli, Gaja, Kerala floods to Karnataka: Here is how the Modi government has responded to natural disasters

Under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, there are two kinds of funds set up exclusively for disaster relief – the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) and the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF). In addition to maintaining the NDRF, the central government also used to contribute 75% of the funds of SDRF

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Starting with the Kerala floods of 2018, every time a natural calamity strikes, it has become almost fashionable to blame the Modi government for not giving enough money for disaster relief or at times, not even tweeting about the disaster! The WhatsApp group of “Self-declared Eminent Citizens” are typically at the forefront of spreading these rumours. At first, I did a cursory search in the Lok Sabha website and surprisingly found out that 1000s of crores of money was indeed given by the Central government to various state governments just in the past couple of years. Very curious, I dug further.

Under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, there are two kinds of funds set up exclusively for disaster relief – the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) and the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF). In addition to maintaining the NDRF, the central government also used to contribute 75% of the funds of SDRF. So each state had to only contribute 25% to the SDRF (In the case of Special Category states, 90% came from the central government).

After the Modi government came into power, the total value of funds made available in SDRF for the period of the 14th Finance Commission (2015 to 2020) was increased from the previous INR 33,580 crores to INR 61,220 crores. That’s a startling 88% more money available for any kind of disaster relief. Additionally, starting April 1st, 2018, the Modi government has increased the centre’s contribution to the SDRF to 90%. Now, all states of the country get 90% of their SDRF funds from the central government itself.

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The funds available in the SDRF are entirely at the disposal of the state government only. There is no need for the states to get the permission of the centre to use this money for all designated disasters. In case additional funds are needed, an Inter-Ministerial Team meets regularly to decide on how much to allot from the NDRF.

When the Kerala floods happened in August 2018, this WhatsApp group were at the forefront of this charade that while UAE was offering INR 700 crores for relief, our government had given only INR 600 crores. When the UAE offer turned out to be a big lie, this group went totally silent. And in December 2018, the centre released a whopping INR 3048 crores for the Kerala Floods. This is in addition to the INR 790 crores already available in the SDRF, and also in addition to many other things done at that time.

When the Titli cyclone hit the coasts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, the then AP CM, Shri N.Chandrababu Naidu was on the forefront of complaining that the centre was not giving him enough funds. Those were the days when he used to complain that the centre was not funding a new handkerchief each time he sneezes, but those were also the days when many people believed his propaganda. The cyclone hit the coast in October 2018. In addition to released INR 230 crores in October itself, the central government had given a total of INR 539.52 crores for Titli relief from the NDRF. Do note here that the state government already has INR458 crores in the SDRF, 90% of which came from the centre only! By the way, Odisha received additional assistance of INR 1023 crores from the NDRF for Titli relief measures.

Similar noise was made when cyclone Fani hit the coast and impacted AP, Odisha and West Bengal on April 2019. In a shocking move, Mamta Banerjee did not even talk to the PM when the PM himself called to assess the damage. Yet, advance assistance of INR 1086 crore was released to the three states. An additional INR 1000 crores were given to Odisha only after the PM visited the cyclone ravaged state. People who wanted to call this an election gimmick could not do so, for the simple reason that the cyclone hit Odisha and AP *after* the election was over!

When Cyclone Gaja hit Tamil Nadu, some usual suspects filed a case in the High Court. At that point of time, the HC was informed by the state government that the “Centre is yet to release 1000 crores”. Turns out that a total amount of 2177 crores was made available with the state government from the centre!

There was yet another outrage after the recent Karnataka floods. The centre has now released 1200 crores for rehabilitation efforts in Karnataka.

The expectation that as soon as calamity strikes, the central government should simply give as much money as is being demanded, is a totally unfair one. In all their responses to the various questions in the Parliament, the central government has a standard paragraph. It is important that we read it carefully (emphasis mine):

Though the primary responsibility for disaster management rests with the State Governments, Central Government extends all possible logistics and financial supports to the States to supplement their efforts to meet the situation effectively. The concerned State Governments undertake an assessment of damage and provide financial relief in the wake of natural disasters including cyclone, from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) already placed at their disposal. Additional financial assistance is extended from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) by following the laid down procedure, which includes an assessment based on the visit of an Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT).”

While we speak so much about money, there are many things that the Government of India provides as logistics support that doesn’t get counted into all the above amounts I have mentioned. Like the thousands of metric tonnes of relief material (Rice, water, milk etc); Like the helicopters/aircrafts the Indian defence forces have deployed; like the boats, the Navy deploys; like the occasional tax sops; like the additional trains run; like rebuilding the national highways and so on.

While it is indeed a fashion to blame Modi for everything, it is pertinent to note that the state governments usually tend to get away with this blame game. The state governments must be held more responsible for all the rebuilding efforts. With so much relief material that pours in from various parts of the country when disasters happen, what exact reason do the state governments have to not co-ordinate exemplary rebuilding efforts?

As for the lies propagated by the usual suspects, it is a shame that they simply dust it off when their cheap propaganda is pointed out.

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