Rain havoc: Kerala govt calls off Onam celebrations

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Thiruvananthapuram: Reeling under the unprecedented havoc caused by heavy rains, the Kerala government Tuesday decided do away with the 'Onam' celebrations this year and instead utilise the amount for relief operations.

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The chief minister said the Rs 1220 crore now sought from the centre was based on a preliminary estimate. The state's initial estimate of total losses is Rs 8316 crore. Pinarayi Vijayan said that never before had the state suffered such destruction. 38 people have been officially recorded dead till now, and four are missing. The shutters of 27 dams were opened. Landslides were reported from 215 places More than 10,000 kms of road have been destroyed, and 20,000 houses have been fully destroyed. More than 30,000 of the 60,000 people who were shifted to relief camps have not returned. "But the damage could be even worse. Even union home minister Rajnath Singh had described the situation as 'extraordinarily grave',” Pinarayi Vijayan said.

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Read more: Two shutters of Mattupetty dam up, Mullaperiyar water level at 136 ft

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According to him, the true extent of the damage can be assessed only after the waters have receded. “We have asked the centre to despatch a second central team," he said. The chief minister said that considering the gravity of the situation, 251 more villages have been declared disaster-affected. Now the total number of disaster-affected villages is 444.

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Pinarayi Vijayan acknowledged the huge outpouring of support for the state in this time of crisis. "The chief ministers of other states and various political party leaders, too, have extended all support. And within the state, voluntary organisations have plunged full swing into relief work," the chief minister said.

He was especially grateful for the sacrifices made by individuals. "There are many who have contributed the money they have saved for Onam, there are those who had parted with their first salary, an other-state worker who had provided woollen sheets to the needy, children who had broken their piggy banks to donate all the money they had saved. Everyone has been doing whatever they could to soften the suffering," the chief minister said.

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Part with two days' salary

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The chief minister urged government employees to contribute two days of their salary to the disaster relief fund. He also wanted the PSUs and cooperative bodies to transfer their CSR funds to the disaster relief fund. "We will ask the State-Level Bankers' Committee to exempt such transfers from the commissions and exchange charges," the chief minister said.

Families with houses that had been flooded for more than two days will be provided a relief of Rs 10,000 each. Families whose houses have been fully destroyed or had become completely unfit to live will be provided an assistance of Rs four lakh each. Those who have lost their land and house will be provided a maximum assistance of Rs 6 lakh to buy 3-5 cents of land. "This means that a family that had lost everything will get Rs four lakh to buy a house and Rs 6 lakh to buy land, a total of Rs 10 lakh" the chief minister said.

The government will also ask bank to do away with the 'minimum balance' norm as the government will be transferring the aid directly to the accounts of beneficiaries. “We don't want a situation where the banks profit from the financial support teh government provides the suffering,” the chief minsiter said.

Also read: Rain, landslides ravage Kerala

He said that UAE Exchange and LULU Exchange had agreed not to take service charges from non-resident Keralites contributing to the chief minsiter's disaster relief fund. Contributions can also be made through the Kerala government website, www.kerala.gov.in, using the centre's Unified Payment Interface (UPI). "Such contributions will be instantly provided with the certificates necessary for income tax exemptions," the chief minister said. For further details contact 155300.

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