Politicising Kerala relief
Now that the floods have subsided, it is time for restoration of normalcy in Kerala as people are slowing leaving the relief camps and heading homes. The calamity has left behind a trail of destruction -- from inundated and washed-out homes to broken highways. The biggest challenge, however, is to compensate the rural people whose farms and crops have borne the maximum damage. The incessant rains and the flash flood did not allow the people to salvage their belongings, especially the food grains. Now, when they go back to their homes, they need financial support to rebuild their houses and relief materials including food grains in sufficient quantity till they are back on their feet and can take care of themselves. This is a massive task and puts a huge financial burden on the state government, which has pegged the estimated loss at a little over Rs 19,000 crore. Despite generous donations from all quarters, the aid does not measure up to the need. The Centre has released Rs 500 crore to the state government for carrying out the relief work but as per the state government, the amount is not sufficient in view of the massive task that lies ahead.
Reacting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's grant of Rs 500 crore for the relief work in Kerala, Congress has said that the PM has failed to show the large-heartedness and the Centre's aid of Rs 500 crore is too little. The party has also accused Modi of playing politics on the issue of flood relief. At present, Kerala is being ruled by Left Democratic Front (LDF) headed by CPI-M. Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) is the other political bloc that has ruled the state in the past. BJP has been trying hard to make inroads in the state politics but has not had much success. Rather, killing of RSS workers by the cadres of the communist parties is one of the main issues that BJP has raised during elections campaigns in the recent past. So, as far as the accusation that the Centre is playing a partisan role in granting aid to the flood-ravaged state is concerned, there can be some truth in it. In the next Assembly election when different parties would be making competing claims about the work done by them during the flood and relief measures undertaken after it, the narrative would be on expected lines: the Centre would be claiming that it had given more than enough funds but the state government failed to utilise them while the ruling parties in the state would claim that the Centre had not given enough funds for the relief and rehabilitation work.
After a show of unity during the rescue efforts, political parties are likely to make a fuss about grants and aids given or needed for the mammoth task of restoration of normalcy in the state. But Kerala floods because of the scale of destruction and the number of people affected is a humanitarian crisis and political parties should avoid giving it a political colour. Rather, this should be an occasion when the Centre and the state government should work in complete harmony and ensure that the people do not have to suffer any more. Including Rs 100 crore promised by Union home minister Rajnath Singh, the Centre has promised Rs 600 crore to Kerala to combat the floods. Though the amount appears to be inadequate given the large-scale damage and loss of life that the floods have caused, this may be the initial response of the Centre and it may be mulling a more wholesome package for the state. However, what is important is to keep the communication between the Centre and the state government free from acrimony.
The floods have evoked a massive and spontaneous response from the Kerala diaspora and individual donations are pouring in from all over the world. Voluntary organisations active in the country are doing their bit to provide help and solace to the flood-affected people. Similarly, various state governments and corporate houses have pledged monetary support to the state government for carrying out the relief work. As a matter of fact, the entire nation has stood by the people of Kerala in this hour of crisis. Though the task of rebuilding the damaged infrastructure and getting people back to their homes is a big challenge, it will be eventually accomplished with the generous help and support that the state is receiving. Political parties would continue to criticise their opponents but that should not derail the momentum with which the relief work is going on or the support being provided to the state government.