The Kerala governmentâ€™s request to the Union government to exempt the state from being charged Rs 205.81 crores for 89,540 million tonnes of food grains provided by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) during the peak of the 2018 floods has been rejected. The Union government has informed that the amount will be charged from the food subsidy given to the state.
The food grains were an additional allocation as requested by the Chief Minister of Kerala in 2018, as a relief to the flood affected families. In May 2022, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting to waive the cost of the allocated rice. However, a letter by Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal to Pinarayi Vijayan in July 2022, stated that the amount had to be immediately reimbursed. The letter mentioned that Rs 2,904.85 crore had already been released from the National Disaster Response as flood relief and further relaxation could not be provided.
The letter from Goyal said that the Union government had directed FCI to immediately allocate food grains without insisting on the amount of Rs 205.81 crores in 2018. Kerala was reeling through the worst floods in a century, and thousands had been displaced at the time. â€śIt was also communicated that since the matter is pending for a long (more than 3 years) the department may have to initiate action for recovery of the pending payment by adjusting it against the food subsidy payable to the state government of Kerala,â€ť the letter said.
Kerala was heavily affected by floods in 2018 and 2019 and struggled to find funds to rebuild and rehabilitate. The state did not feature in the list of seven states that the Union government chose to provide a calamity relief of Rs 5,908 crore from the National Disaster Relief Fund in 2020. The High Level Committee (HLC) chaired by Union Home Minister Amit Shah chose seven states: Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tripura and Assam, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
After the first big flood of 2018, the state had initially estimated a loss of Rs 20,000 crore. The allocation from the Union government for relief was Rs 600 crore. Following the recession of water levels, Minister EP Jayarajan pegged the total loss at Rs 40,000 crore. In November 2018, another Rs 2,500 crore was sanctioned for Kerala.
Even after the 2019 floods, the Kerala government had alleged that though the losses were estimated to be Rs 2,101 crore, the Union government did not sanction any major relief for Kerala. A seven-member inter-ministerial team had also visited in September 2020, to assess the rain and flood damage, but no report was released by the team.