Kerala floods: GoI declares ‘severe calamity’, exempts relief material from custom duty, IGST

As the first phase of rescue operations reaches its end, Kerala attempts to return to normalcy. (Indian Express Photos by Nirmal Harindran)

The Government of India has declared the floods in Kerala as a ‘calamity of a severe nature’, paving the way for national assistance in various forms, officials said. The relief and rescue operations have also notched up. The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) guidelines state that once a calamity is declared of “severe nature”, each MP can contribute up to Rs 1 crore for relief and rehabilitation purposes. Union Minister of India, Piyush Goyal said that the government of India has exempted relief material headed to Kerala from basic customs duty and IGST.

More than 43,000 people have been rescued and 12.47 lakh people are currently lodged in relief camps.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday declared that the first phase of the rescue mission had reached its finality and the next phase would focus on intensifying relief and rehabilitation.

The state government has requested financial assistance of upto 21,000 crore for reconstruction of basic infrastructure. The Kerala government will need at least Rs 21,000 crore to reconstruct basic infrastructure and will look at various options to meet the burden, including approaching the GST Council to allow the state to levy a cess, State Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, who is in charge of overseeing relief work in Alappuzha district, told The Indian Express.

The state will also approach the central government, multilateral agencies and soft-loan providers, Isaac said. “The social cost is unimaginable, the trauma is heavy,” he said.

Isaac stated the state will also have to make “corrections in the development trajectory” in the future and “focus on the toll that development takes on the environment”.

Madhya Pradesh DGP Rishi Kumar Shukla said the state police department would make a donation of Rs. 1.31 crore to Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Fund and all police personnel of MP would donate their one day’s salary as well. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have decided to contribute nearly Rs 100 crore to the relief fund along with 2,3500 tonnes of rice and essential commodities. Mumbai extended a helping hand by sending 80 of its doctors to Thiruvanthapuram on Monday to offer medical assistance to citizens stranded in flood-ravaged state. Around 55 doctors from JJ hospital, 26 doctors from Sasoon hospital and 14 paramedical staff reached.

Following UAE, Qatar has announced financial aid of 34.89 crore for flood ravaged Kerala for providing assistance for shelter, a media report on Sunday. Pope Francis, during a Sunday address at the Vatican Church, urged for international solidarity and concrete help for the victims of the flooded state.

The state government for the flood ravaged Kerala has called for an all-party meeting at 4 pm today. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan dismissed the rumours circling around on social media about the misuse of donation for funds on Monday.

“Police have been instructed to take strict measures against such cyber offenders. Also Spotted some fraudulent messages/posters with altered CMDRF account numbers as well,” the CM wrote on Twitter.

In one of the first unprecedented floods in history, fresh onslaught of rain in Kerala since August 8 has led to a death toll of over 300. 80 dams have been opened. A red alert has been issued in all the 14 districts of the state. There have been power cuts and food shortage across the state.

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi announced a financial assistance of Rs 500 crore to the flood ravaged state of Kerala after chairing a high level meeting with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Minister Alphons KJ and other state ministers for checking rehabilitations measures and assessing the damage. He also announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh per person to the next kin of the deceased.

The President of the United Arab Emirates Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan instructed officials to set up a national emergency committee to help flood-hit areas of Kerala, reported news agency ANI.

The author of a report on the conservation of the Western Ghats, Scientist Madhav Gadgil, said on Sunday that the scale of the disaster would have been smaller had the state government and local authorities followed environmental laws. He headed the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel formed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2010, said at least a part of the problem in Kerala was “man made”.

“Yes, there is an intense rainfall event which has caused this. But I am quite convinced that the last several years’ developments in the state have materially compromised its ability to deal with events like this and greatly increased the magnitude of the suffering that we are seeing today. Had proper steps been taken, the scale of the disaster would have been nowhere near what it is today,” Dr Gadgil told The Indian Express.

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