Kerala rehab: Centre likely to enhance borrowing limit

Pinarayi Vijayan

Thiruvananthapuram: With flood-ravaged Kerala now focusing on rebuilding, the Centre said it would favourably consider the state’s demand to enhance the borrowing limit.

As part of efforts for resource mobilisation, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan held discussions with World Bank officials and said their help was necessary to rebuild the state.

Roads and bridges have been destroyed and small traders and businessmen were facing grave crisis, and so the present bank schemes alone were not enough, Vijayan said and sought aid from the World Bank.

The centre said more assistance would be provided after a fresh memorandum is submitted on the loss and damage caused due to the deluge.

According to a preliminary estimate, the loss and damage due to the rain fury was Rs 20,000 crore, but Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said it would be much more.

The deluge in the state, the worst in a century, had claimed over 320 lives since 8 August besides causing widespread destruction.

At the State Level Bankers meet, Union minister of state for Finance Pon Radhakrishnan said the Centre would consider all demands, including increasing the borrowing limit of the state, to raise funds for rehabilitation of flood victims and rebuilding the state.

The state had asked the Centre to enhance the borrowing limit from 3 per cent State Gross Domestic Product (SGDP) to 4.5 per cent and had sought permission to impose a cess of 10 per cent on state GST.

Later, talking to reporters, Radhakrishnan said the state had informed the Centre that a fresh memorandum was under preparation. A central team would again visit Kerala to assess the damage caused and a decision on the assistance would be made after its report.

The centre would extend necessary funds for the state after the assessment by the team, Radhakrishnan said.

Radhakrishnan also added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was constantly monitoring the state’s flood situation and had asked Cabinet colleagues to extend all support to Kerala to tide over the situation.

Banks in Kerala have decided to reschedule repayment of loans of the rain-hit people, Radhakrishnan said.

Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac said the meeting was very cordial and the union minister had taken a positive stand on the issues raised by the state.

The centre had already allotted Rs 600 crore for flood-relief activities after Modi’s visit to the affected areas.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who concluded his two-day visit to the flood affected areas, attacked the Centre for not extending adequate financial assistance to Kerala.

Rahul also said he was in favour of accepting foreign aid from countries like the UAE for rebuilding the flood-ravaged state. A release from the chief minister’s office said the world bank team would conduct the Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis within ten days.

Public sector insurance companies said they have received more than 11,000 claims worth an estimated Rs 1,200 crore in the aftermath of the deluge. With more people returning home, the number of those lodged in relief camps have come down to 98,000, officials said.

There were more than 14.50 lakh people housed in camps on 21 August. In a significant indication of life returning to normal after the torrential rains, schools and colleges reopened yesterday.

The Cochin International Airport, which remained shut for two weeks, started its operations. The cleaning drive initiated by the government with the help of volunteers continued in parts of Kuttanad in Alappuzha where some places were still under water.

As precautionary steps, the government issued alert on the possibility of outbreak of leptospirosis in Thrissur, Palakkad, Kozhikode, Malapuram and Kannur districts.

The state honoured fishermen who participated in rescue operations with the Chief Minister saying the state owes a big salute to the fisherfolk.

With more donations towards the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) pouring in, CBSE schools in Kerala have been directed to handhold one flood-hit family for a year.

There are 1,350 CBSE schools in the state with ten lakh students. The Amirthanandamayi Math donated Rs 10 crore, while a group of Keralities in the US have raised Rs 9.8 crore through Facebook and donated it to the CMDRF.

According to the Disaster Management’s state control room, 474 people have died in rain-related incidents since 29 May when the southwest monsoon set in over Kerala.