Kerala floods: The deluge of sorrow continues unabated second year in a row

Topics kerala floods

As of Saturday, this year’s floods in Kerala have so far claimed over 42. Photo: PTI
Even as it faces another flood-like situation, Kerala is still struggling to recover from last year’s deluge, the worst in 100 years.

The disaster in August 2018 had reportedly killed more than 400 people, with many still missing.

And as of Saturday, floods this time have so far claimed over 42 lives.

According to official figures given by the Kerala government, the loss the state suffered last year was Rs 26,718 crore, which included damaged roads, homes, and infrastructure.

However, opposition parties allege slow execution and lack of planning have hobbled the rebuilding process.

In addition, political factors also played their part in the uneven distribution of government aid.

“Even after a year, the promised immediate aid of Rs 10,000 is yet to reach families and those who got it are the ones close to the ruling party. In addition, all the steps to raise money through masala bonds or salary contributions have not been successful,” said B Gopalakrishnan, the BJP’s Kerala spokesperson. 

Government figures indicate of the 15,664 houses fully damaged, work on only 43 per cent have been completed. 

On the other hand, for rebuilding 306,467 houses that were partially damaged, about Rs 1,539 crore has been distributed to only 281,986 families. 

In May, the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) raised Rs 2,150 crore through masala bonds, becoming the only state-government body in India to issue rupee-denominated offshore bonds.

“What industry suffered is not included in the official figures. The business community in the state suffered an additional loss of about Rs 20,000 crore, which is not documented. Despite having no business during the busy Onam season last year, we had to pay interest on our loans, and had to suffer other physical losses too, for which the government is yet to compensate us. I believe the masala bonds too came at a higher interest rate,” said E S Jose from the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

Industrialists like Jose say the additional 1 per cent “flood cess” came as a jolt to industry and consumers, whose purchasing power has been reduced because of the floods and job losses in West Asia. The flood-hit state was eyeing an additional revenue of around Rs 600 crore annually through the flood cess, which would be applicable for two years. To rebuild the road infrastructure of around 600 km, the state has so far secured aid from KfW, the funding arm of the German government, and the World Bank. While KfW is providing Rs 1,600 crore for 360 km, the World Bank aid of around Rs 1,200 crore will be for another 240 km. “Even these basic reconstruction projects are still in limbo because the state has been hit by floods this year too,” Gopalakrishnan added. 

The government has asked its employees to contribute a month’s salary to the chief minister’s flood relief fund, but the Kerala High Court has stayed the order asking the employees to file an affidavit giving reasons for not participating in the relief process. Till June this year, only Rs 3,900 crore went to the chief minister’s relief fund.

Looking at a sectorwise break-up, social sectors — such as housing, land and settlements, health and nutrition, education, child protection, and cultural heritage — suffered a combined impact of Rs 7,191 crore.

On the other hand, sectors like agriculture, fisheries, and livestock too suffered losses of Rs 7,155 crore. The floods had affected 1,269 of the 1,664 villages in the state, while around 1.5 million people were sheltered in 12,251 relief camps.

C V Sajani, general secretary of the Flood Relief Association for Merchants and Entrepreneurs, had a different story to tell about micro, small and medium units. She said about 5,355 such enterprises in the state lost Rs 1,415 crore last year. “No compensation has been given so far. Many units are on the verge of a permanent shutdown. The government should save them,” she added.

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