The opposition staged a walkout in the Assembly on Wednesday after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan refused to give a deadline for the distribution of financial assistance to flood victims. The walkout was staged after a three-and-a-half hour discussion in the Assembly on post-flood relief measures.
The chief minister, however, gave a general assurance that all the affected people will be compensated. “If your demand is based on genuine concerns, I assure you that everyone will be compensated,” he said.
The opposition was not satisfied and insisted on a time-table for the distribution of relief. When Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan told the opposition that the chief minister had responded positively to their concerns, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala shot back: “The response is positive, but it has been three months since the floods. People should know when they will get the compensation. It cannot go on indefinitely.”
The discussion was held after the chief minister agreed to allow an adjournment motion on the issue moved by Congress member V D Satheesan. His argument was that the government had not done anything to provide relief to flood victims. He said that only Rs 592 crore or less than 15 per cent of Rs 4,385 crore (the total money mobilised till now for relief) has been spent till December 4.
Satheesan said that Kerala was perhaps the only flood-affected place in the world where a damage assessment or data collection had not been carried out. Also, he alleged that whatever was done was done in the most casual manner. “The data on affected houses was collected not by experts but by college students,” Satheesan said. “Don't we have engineering departments that have in their payrolls superintending engineers to overseers. Still why were college students used to collect data,” he asked.
An interim settlement plan for 20,000-odd families who had lost their homes in the floods was also not put in place, Satheesan said. “Some still live in relief camps, and some are in their relatives house. There are other families that have been separated, with children and parents in different homes,” he said. Many have not even received the primary relief of Rs 10,000.
The chief minister, during his reply, did not touch upon these issues.
Woes of small traders
Satheesan said that a damage assessment of small businesses was also not made. “Has any one of your officials gone and asked a small trader in a flood-affected area about the losses he had suffered,” he asked. “They had stocked their shops for the Onam season, and all of it was washed away by the floods,” he said.
The chief minister virtually conceded that no such assessment had been done. He said that compensation for medium and small scale enterprises were not mentioned in the National Disaster Response Fund guidelines. “But this does not mean that we will abandon them. We will do our own assessment and fix a compensation for them,” he said.
Apathy of banks
Satheesan said that the government had earlier promised that it would talk with banks and provide Rs 10 lakh as interest-free loan for small traders. “Has any bank offered even Rs 1,000 as loan for these poor traders,” Satheesan asked. He said the government was not even able to convene a meeting of banks to thrash out the issues.
Satheesan said that these banks had usurped even the insurance money these traders had received for their losses. “They adjusted the insurance amount to the interest the suffering trader had to pay,” he said and added: “You didn't have the spine to tell these arrogant banks that the state's deposits would be withdrawn from them if they carry on with their insensitive policies.”
The chief minister did not respond to the charges.
Satheesan said that the government had not responded favourably to offers of help from outside. “An international NGO had come forward to construct 500 homes. Their bylaw says that they can provide assistance only in cases where the government offers a small share. So they said they would put in Rs 4 lakh for house if the government promises Rs one lakh. I had called up the chief minister and he had responded positively. But even after one and a half months there has not been a favourable response,” Satheesan said.
The chief minister only said that the proposal was acceptable and he would look into it.
Aid for fishermen
The Congress leader said that not a single paise had been given to fishermen who had lost their equipment in the flood. “You have not even mended the boats of fishermen who had taken part in the rescue mission,” Satheesan said.
The chief minister, however, said that 587 of the 662 boats that were damaged in the rescue mission had been repaired. He also said that 544 boats were fitted with outboard motors.