'Timely Central Aid Eludes Kerala'

Thiruvananthapuram, October 17: | Updated: Oct 18 2002, 05:30am hrs
In its most needy hour, Central assistance has always eluded Kerala, acccording to state revenue minister K M Mani. As the rain fury has lashed out in the state devastating life, property, crops and roads, Chief Minister A K Antony in New Delhi this week will press the Centre for Rs 25 crore to meet out the damages.

Given the last year's experience, the Centre's support in the flood damage repair has been rather scant to Kerala, Mr Mani said. This is not a concurrent list subject. The real authority, who should step in for support in unforeseen calamity situations, is the Centre, the minister said. Mr Antony had on Wednesday lashed out against the Centre's dwindling assistance to distressed states.

Tentatively, the revenue damages this year have been assessed at Rs 50 crore. The full extent of the damages is yet to be worked out. In the first estimate, 91 villages have been swamped by the rains, 564 dwellings have been partially destroyed and 116 dwellings completely so. In the last fortnight, 23 rain-related deaths have been reported. Forty relief camps have been opened and 365 families have been moved to sheltor. In the northern districts, several villages have been completely cut off from communication. Apart from the 23 lives, it was the Kerala roads which were the biggest casualty of the rains. The National Highway stretch in the state suffered Rs 6 crore damages, Kerala public works minister M K Muneer said.

The state highways were damaged to a tune of Rs 12 crore. The repairs will be taken up immediately on a priority basis by a task force set up by the Kerala High Court, he said.

The state government's exchequer, despite its own distress, had risen to the occasion in providing emergency relief. Of the Rs 2 crore sanctioned by the Kerala cabinet on Wednesday, Rs 1 crore has been released on Thursday. The revenue department has been urging the state finance department to sanction another Rs 10 crore, Mr Mani said.