'National disaster' push

The Congress on Saturday threw its weight behind a rising chorus from Kerala to declare the deluge a "national disaster", mounting pressure on the Narendra Modi government to do more and not punish Malayalis for their political preferences.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 19.08.18
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 People being evacuated in a truck in Thrissur on Saturday. (AFP)

New Delhi: The Congress on Saturday threw its weight behind a rising chorus from Kerala to declare the deluge a "national disaster", mounting pressure on the Narendra Modi government to do more and not punish Malayalis for their political preferences.

Party chief Rahul Gandhi persisted with the demand through tweets while people across the country rallied to boost relief efforts for the Left-ruled state, where the flood toll has crossed 350.

"Dear PM, increasing funds allocated for Kerala relief to Rs 500 cr is a good step but nowhere near enough. It is critical you declare the floods as a national disaster. Please do not vacillate as the people of Kerala are suffering," Rahul tweeted in the evening.

The Kerala government has not formally asked for the floods to be declared a national disaster, preferring, instead, that the situation be labeled a calamity of "rare severity".

Modi visited Kerala on Saturday and announced Rs 500 crore as immediate relief. The aid was in addition to the Rs 100 crore Union home minister Rajnath Singh had announced earlier.

Congress media chief Randeep Surjewala sharpened the criticism later in the night, seeing a design in the BJP's lukewarm response: "Tragic that PM Modi announced a pittance of Rs 500 Cr for #KeralaFloodRelief against the state's demand of Rs 2000 Cr. Painful that Modi Govt is playing politics over flood relief merely because BJP has no presence in the state. Does Modi Govt comprehend that #KeralaFlood has left 357 (dead), 4 lakh are in shelter homes, 30,000 houses destroyed & 16,000km of roads damaged. Why is Modiji not declaring #KeralaFlood a 'National Calamity'? Stop punishing flood-ravaged Kerala."

The Congress has asked all its lawmakers - in Parliament and in the state legislatures - to donate a month's salary to the relief and rehabilitation effort.

While this will be channelled through Congress networks in Kerala, Rahul has been backing the state government's efforts to mobilise resources through contributions to the chief minister's disaster relief fund.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury too stepped up criticism over the day. "Kerala has suffered a loss of nearly Rs 20,000 cr in these floods. The state had sought an *immediate* assistance of Rs 2000 cr from the Centre. What Modi has given is grossly insufficient for urgent rescue, relief and rehabilitation work," Yechury tweeted.

Most non-BJP-ruled states had announced financial assistance on Friday itself and were pledging to do more.