As losses mount, govt backtracks on direct payment to flood victims

As losses mount, govt backtracks on direct payment to flood victims
Industry minister E P Jayarajan, who is standing in for chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, said that there was no such financial package for destroyed homes and lost lands.
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Thiruvananthapuram: The state government has gone back on its promise to grant Rs four lakh to those who had lost their houses in the floods and landslides and Rs 10 lakh for those who had lost both their land and houses.

Instead, the government is now looking to encourage a sponsor-driven reconstruction approach.

Industry minister E P Jayarajan, who is standing in for chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, said that there was no such financial package for destroyed homes and lost lands.

The offer of Rs 4 lakh is for the kin of the dead, Jayarajan told reporters on Wednesday.

As per official estimates, 488 people lost their lives in the floods. “As for the Rs 10 lakh, it was not an assistance promised to those who had lost both their land and house but a one-time interest-free loan for those who had lost their small business to the floods,” Jayarajan said.

The special package of Rs 4 lakh and Rs 10 lakh was announced on August 11, after the chief minister visited the flood-affected areas of Wayanad along with opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. Nonetheless, Jayarajan offered a peep into why the direct compensation method has been virtually dumped.

“The scale of the disaster is growing by the day,” he said. When Pinarayi Vijayan announced the package on August 11, the disaster was only beginning to unfurl. According to the latest estimate, the losses have swelled to Rs 40,000 crore. The latest assessment of losses, drawn up after totalling the loss estimates of various departments, will be submitted to the union government on September 13.

This humongous expenditure might have forced the government to adopt a new approach to reconstruction. Rather than providing direct compensation, the government now wants to play the role of a facilitator.

“Many organisations have come forward offering to reconstruct damaged houses. Individuals, too,” Jayarajan said. The plan is to bring the good samaritans and the beneficiaries together. For this, the Planning Department will soon open a web portal where those wanting to help and those seeking help would be linked.

Since close to seven lakh houses have been flood-affected, non-governmental help or sponsorship for all the damaged houses is a remote possibility.

A top government source said that the government would take over the reconstruction of the rest of the houses.

“But for the administration to get a clear idea about the responsibility it has to take up, the sponsor-beneficiary linkage will have to be struck first,” the official said.

The government wanted to fully utilise the help that was coming the state's way, Jayarajan said.

He said that the preliminary assistance of Rs 10,000 promised to flood-affected families was being distributed without delay. Already 5.1 lakh families have received the assistance, Jayarajan said. He said that the amount was deposited directly into the account of the beneficiaries to prevent diversion.

Jayarajan said that most people have returned to their homes. At the moment, there are 4,857 people or 1,498 families in 122 relief camps across the state.

On August 20, over 10 lakh people were put up in nearly 3,500 relief camps. He said there were only 3,509 houses left to be cleaned, adding, 6.89 lakh houses have been declared flood-affected.

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