New Delhi: The massive floods in Kerala have been declared a calamity of severe nature, the Home Ministry said on Monday.
An aerial view of the flooded locality in Kerala
At least 216 people have lost their lives in the rains, floods and landslides in the state where over 7.24 lakh displaced people have been sheltered in 5,645 relief camps since August 8.
When a calamity is declared to be of 'rare severity'/'severe nature' support to the state government is provided at the national level. The Centre also considers additional assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF). A Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) is set up, with the corpus shared 3:1 between Centre and state.
When resources in the CRF are inadequate, additional assistance is considered from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), funded 100 per cent by the Centre. Relief in repayment of loans or for grant of fresh loans to the persons affected on concessional terms, too, are considered once a calamity is declared "severe".
An inter-ministerial team led by A V Dharma Reddy, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, had visited Kerala on August 8 to assess the damage caused by the rains and floods.
Another official said that an inter-ministerial team visits a state in view of any natural disaster; it automatically considers it as a calamity of severe nature.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had visited the state on August 12 and declared an immediate assistance of Rs 100 crore to Kerala. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to the state on August 16, had announced an aid of Rs 500 crore.
The central government has also decided to give ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to the family of those killed in the floods and Rs 50,000 to the injured. The compensation will be given from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.
The Congress and the Left parties have been demanding that the Kerala floods be declared a national calamity. However, the Centre on Monday informed the Kerala High Court that there was no provision in the statutes or manuals to declare a disaster national calamity.
In an affidavit, the Centre said it has treated the Kerala flood situation as a "Disaster of Serious Nature and has categorised the same as 'L3 Level of Disaster,' under the National Disaster Management Guidelines. It is submitted that there is no provision in statutes or manuals to declare a disaster as "National Calamity", howsoever big it may be. It is only an expression used in general parlance, the Centre said.
The affidavit was filed in response to a petition for declaring the flood as a national disaster.
In reply to a question in Parliament during the recent monsoon session, Minister of State (Home) Kiren Rijiju had also said that there is no provision, executive or legal, to declare a natural calamity as a national calamity.
"The existing guidelines of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)/ National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), do not contemplate declaring a disaster as a National Calamity," he had said.
Besides Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala had wanted the Centre to declare the floods a 'national disaster'.
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country's apex body to handle emergencies, has been regularly monitoring the flood situation in Kerala.
On Sunday, the NCMC had directed that focus should now be on provision of emergency supplies of food, water, medicines and restoration of essential services such as power, fuel, telecom and transport links as flood water recedes in Kerala.
The Army, Navy, Indian Air Force and the National Disaster Response Force have been continuously engaged in rescue and relief operations in all the 14 flood-hit districts in Kerala.