Centre paid ‘peanuts’ to flood victims: HC

Union Finance Ministry asked to submit response by October 6

Centre paid ‘peanuts’ to flood victims - HCObserving that the Centre has so far paid “peanuts” as relief to flood-hit people of the state, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court today directed the Union Finance Ministry to file it response by October 6 about the pending amount as far as Rs 44,000-crore relief package sought by the state was concerned.

The directions by a Division Bench of Justice NN Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Bansi Lal Bhat came after the Union Home Ministry informed the Bench in its status report that the proposal for release of a special package of Rs 44,000 crore was under consideration before the Union Finance Ministry.

Apart from asking the Union Finance Ministry to file its response on a special flood relief package, the High Court directed the J&K Government to file a status report by October 6 about the statement of accounts, explaining where the money released by the Centre as part of flood relief had been spent. The government was asked to submit the statement about number of beneficiaries as well.

The High Court is hearing a public interest litigation on the floods in 2014. On September 4, the court directed the Centre to produce the policy for grant of relief to flood victims and submit its compliance report on the Rs 44,000-crore relief package sought by J&K on or before September 10.

What J&K demanded

Immediately after the floods in September last year, the state government had sought a special financial package of Rs 44,000 crore to rehabilitate the flood victims. Official estimates say 2.61 lakh structures, including residential buildings, were damaged in the floods. The J&K Government had requested the Centre to release funds to the tune of Rs 1,947.2 crore under the National Disaster Response Force.

What Centre provided

The proposal for release of a special package of Rs 44,000 crore is under consideration before the Union Finance Ministry.

Of the special package, Rs 1,667 crore had been announced by the Union Finance Ministry, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs today informed the High Court in its status report submitted through Deputy Secretary Ashok Shukla.

Giving a break-up of this amount, the report said Rs 838 crore on account of pending liabilities of the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan 2004 was sanctioned under UPA-I rule.

The amount of Rs 1,667 crore included an additional Rs 551 crore ex gratia relief for repair and reconstruction of damaged kutcha houses.

More interestingly, the amount included Rs 59 crore as subsidy for providing additional food grain as free ration was distributed among victims during the floods.

It was further stated in the status report that a high-level committee under the chairmanship of the Union Home Ministry approved an assistance of Rs 1,602 crore to the state from National Disaster Relief Fund, which was subject to adjustment of 90 per cent balance in State Disaster Response Fund.

This amount included air bills of Rs 500 crore for rescue and relief operations which were carried out by the Army and Air Force, the status report by the Union Home Ministry underlined.

The report said an amount of Rs 765 crore was sanctioned from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund, of which Rs 570 crore was for reconstruction of damaged houses, Rs 175 crore for repair of hospitals and getting new medical equipment and Rs 20 crore for replacing books damaged during floods.

What HC said today

After going through the status report, the High Court Bench remarked that the total amount sanctioned or released came to around 4,034.56 crore, which was peanuts compared to Rs 44,000-crore sought by the state government.

The Bench observed that the amount so far sanctioned by the Centre as flood relief was “very low”. It said rehabilitation of victims of floods of such magnitude should have been given primary importance by the Central Government.

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