Kerala has urged the Centre to exempt the state from paying a sum of over Rs 113 crore to the Air Force for carrying out relief and rescue operations during the floods in August 2018.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday seeking an exemption, as the state is still struggling to tide over the crisis caused by cyclone Ockhi in 2017 and the floods in 2018.
The letter states that the state government received an air bill to the tune of Rs 113,69,34,899 from the Indian Air Force, in connection with the rescue operations carried out during the floods of 2018.
“The State of Kerala was struck by the cyclone Ockhi in 2017 and floods in 2018, which caused immense damage to life and property and created a stress on the already fragile financial situation of the state. As per the PDNA (Post-Disaster Needs Assessment) report prepared by the United Nations, the amount required for restoration of damaged infrastructure and other losses is about Rs 31,000 crores.”
The letter adds, “However, the additional assistance received from National Disaster Response Fund was only Rs 2,904.85 crores, which is very meager when compared to the total amount needed. The state has now launched Rebuild Kerala Initiative (RKI) to ensure better standards of living for all sections of society and the Government needs more resources for this purpose and has to meet the same from different sources (sic).”
Seeking exemption from paying the amount considering the current situation, the letter says ‘it is difficult to find such huge amount due to Indian Air Force, from the State Disaster Response Fund.”
The Centre had forwarded a bill of Rs 102 crore to the Kerala government for the use of Indian Air Force aircraft and helicopters for flood relief operations in the state, as per a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha.
In December 2018, Navy Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, in the wake of reports that the Navy and Air Force involved in rescue efforts during the floods had given bills worth crores to the state government, had denied and claimed that the Navy didn’t give any bill to the Kerala government.